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Gender Diversity For Parents

Parents may notice that their child does not fit society’s gender norms of ‘male’ or ‘female. This may present as a child enjoying activities or things that are commonly understood to be ‘for the opposite sex’. Some parents may not even notice their child’s experience of gender diversity, while for others it may be overwhelming or distressing. Some parents may be confused about what gender diversity is, why their child is gender diverse and what this means for them as parents.

There is a common perception that gender diversity is a recent trend among young people. However, there is a lot of historical and cultural precedent for gender diversity, and for communities finding new language and modes of expression that better represent their experiences of gender. Gravitating towards non-binary and gender diverse labels is something that can happen regardless of age.

Particularly for some parents who have not had exposure to this community, it can be an overwhelming amount of information to navigate. Parents might have heard of the “hundreds of genders” that people, particularly young people, are said to be adopting. The reality of the situation is that parents need only pay attention to their child’s gender, and listen to how they need to express themselves to feel safe and happy.

It is okay for parents to start a conversation, to ask questions, to understand what it means to their child to be gender diverse, and to listen to what can be done for them to feel supported  and respected.

Having a diverse gender identity may mean your child may like to go by another name, or use neutral pronouns like the singular ‘they’. They may like to change their appearance, or start dressing differently. It could just be that they do not want to be acknowledged as male or female anymore. It can also be all, some, or none of these things, and that this may change over time, or go back and forth. The important thing is to ensure an open and ongoing conversation, motivated by respect and a desire to understand. Try not to make assumptions, and let your child tell you what they are experiencing and what is important to them.

This process for parents does not have to be tackled alone. It is an emotional topic and sometimes intent and understanding can get lost along the way. If there is a strain on your family dynamic, there are many professional counsellors experienced in issues of gender identity who can help facilitate a more constructive dialogue. Similarly, if parents, other family members or the child who is gender diverse are struggling to cope, there are crisis services available, online support groups, as well as the support services and events offered at AGA .

Children need someone in their corner who believe their experiences and can help them live authentically, and parents are by far the best people for this job. While it is normal, however, for parents to feel concerned, confused or conflicted, remember that supportive parents can be one of the most positive impacts in the lives of gender diverse children and young people.

Key Points

  • Gender diversity is not about being trendy or fashionable, it is something that has always been part of the human experience. New language and easier access to like-minded folk and communities through the internet are enabling gender diversity to be more and more invisible.
  • How children  choose to express their gender diversity is a personal choice. The best way for parents to understand those choices is to keep an open and supportive discussion going.
  • Support groups and counselling is available for gender diverse young people and for their the families.
  • It is important for parents to have  space to process their own thoughts and feelings, which can then allow them to be more present for their child.  Having a calm, safe and supportive home environment can greatly reduce stress and anxiety for all family members navigating gender diversity.