Coming to the close of 2020, the topic of gender and sexual identification in children and youth needs more information, discussion, acceptance and love.
While toddlers and children are aware of gender, adolescence is really the time of self-awareness. Many transitions take place during adolescence, including emotional, physical, and cognitive human development pieces.
What is Sexuality?
BetterHealth helps define sexuality by stating “sexuality is about sexual feelings, thoughts, attractions and behaviors toward other people.”
If well-supported, a person’s sexual discovery can be a liberating and positive experience.
It is critical parents and caregivers be aware that discrimination, bullying and violence is widespread and trauma also influences a child’s esteem, identity and development, including sexuality.
What is Gender Identity?
A person’s sex is assigned at birth, based on genitalia. Sex and gender are not the same thing. A person’s gender identity is their innermost understanding of themselves as male, female, both, or neither. Gender identity includes how a person perceives themselves on the inside, not their physical body. The way a person expresses their gender externally is known as gender expression.
People who experience an incongruence between the gender they self-identify as and their biological gender at birth, can experience extreme suffering; a condition known as gender dysphoria.
Website Grown and Flown offers helpful information and definitions for parents.
When a person’s sex and gender match, the term cisgender is used. When gender (male/female) does not match anatomy, the term transgender applies. Being transgender is an adjective, not a noun.
Nonbinary is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is neither solely male nor solely female.
Some nonbinary individuals will pick “he/him” or “she/her” pronouns for convenience, depending on which end of the gender spectrum they identify with most closely. Others will ask us to use gender-neutral pronouns like “they/them” or “ze/hir” (pronounced zee and here).
How Can I Support My Child?
Amber Leventry is a queer, non-binary writer and advocate,”Knowledge will help you advocate for your kids, your kid’s friends, and all individuals who take shelter under the LGBTQ umbrella.
You can do your part to spread love and acceptance by acknowledging that love comes in all genders, sexualities, and expressions.”
WelcomingSchools.org is a great resource for parents to look through for ideas on how to partner with schools to help your child feel safe and affirmed. We encourage you to seek outside help through a licensed therapist who specializes in childhood sexuality and gender identity, who can help them process their feelings and thoughts, reveal possible trauma and build resilience and offer support to address bullying, violence, shaming and negativity.
Further, a therapist can also provide you, the parent, with help to navigate your own experiences and beliefs. This could very well mean you seek your own therapist who specializes or understands working with parents of LGBTQ youth, or by finding support within an organization like PFLAG, which focuses on the importance of familial support for LGBTQ children.
Our role, as parents and caregivers, is to love and accept our children unconditionally.
What we know for sure is that family acceptance, love and support is the number one key to mental wellness of children, teens and young adults. A study by The Family Acceptance Project in California (https://familyproject.sfsu.edu/) reports that “Youth who experienced highly rejecting behaviors from their family were eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who experienced love and acceptance from their parents and caregivers. Even a small bit of change can make a tremendous difference in the mental health of our youth. For youth who experienced moderate rejection (some negativity, but also some positive support), the research group found those LGBTQ youth were only twice as likely to attempt suicide.”
If you have a personal story to share about you and your child, teen or adolescent’s sexual or gender identification journey, we would be honored to interview you. Please get in touch.