One of the many things I worry about when it comes to raising children is how to create an environment supportive of self-identification when it comes to the gender spectrum. Though Nick and I identify as male and female and were fortunate enough to be born with reproductive parts that correspond with those genders, it is not so for everyone and we want to take care not to impose any gender identity onto our children.
One’s gender identification has a deep impact on all aspects of one’s life and for those who do not fall into a clear “born male” or “born female” bucket, society’s disapproval can be immensely challenging and I believe it’s up to us as parents to facilitate a loving, ongoing dialogue about how our children experience gender.
A good way to start thinking about this is as follows:
“People tend to use the terms “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. We assign a newborn’s sex as either male or female*, based on their genitals. Once a sex is assigned, we presume the child’s gender. Someone born with a penis will be a boy and someone with a vulva will be a girl. For many people, this is cause for little, if any, concern or further thought.
While our gender may begin with the assignment of our sex, it doesn’t end there. A person’s gender is the complex interrelationship between three dimensions:
Body: our body, our experience of our own body, how society genders bodies, and how others interact with us based on our body.
Identity: our deeply held, internal sense of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither; who we internally know ourselves to be.
Expression: how we present our gender in the world and how society, culture, community, and family perceive, interact with, and try to shape our gender. Gender expression is also related to gender roles and how society uses those roles to try to enforce conformity to current gender norms.
Each of these dimensions can vary greatly across a range of possibilities. A person’s comfort in their gender is related to the degree to which these three dimensions feel in harmony.”
- Gender Spectrum
At the end of the day, I will know I have done a good job as a parent when my children feel loved, supported and free to be exactly who they are, however they wish to define that. While I cannot protect them entirely from the judgment of society, I can create a home environment where my children are allowed to choose the clothes they wear, the activities they participate in, the friends they make, the music they listen to and the way they express themselves. I will always strive to an example for tolerance, love and acceptance.
Books For Kids
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
Who Are You? The Kid’s Guide to Gender Identity by Brook Pessin-Whedbee
A Fire Engine for Ruthie by Leslea Newman
Jacob's New Dress by Sarah and Ian Hoffman
Introducing Teddy: A gentle story about gender and friendship by Jess Walton
Books For Parents
The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD
Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes by Christia Spears Brown
Gender Neutral Parenting: Raising kids with the freedom to be themselves by Paige Lucas-Stannard
Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine
Resources for the Whole Family
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
Gay-Straight Alliance Network
GLAAD Transgender Resources
National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA)
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health
Youth Guardian Services
Advocates for Youth