Gender Diversity for Families
What does it mean to be gender diverse and how can a supportive family environment be established? Gender diversity is a very broad term that can mean different things to different people. To understand how to support gender diverse people in your family, it is often best just to ask the person. Being gender diverse for some people can mean that they do not identify with the current binary system of man and woman. They may feel themselves to be androgynous or gender creative or have no gender at all (agender). There are any number of ways a person may choose to identify and express themselves as gender diverse. Sometimes this might mean a change in how they want to be referred to – such as a different name or pronoun, or it might mean dressing differently or taking up a different role or duties in the family. Sometimes people come out as gender diverse and their gender expression might not change at all.
The best thing you can do is to start a conversation in which you are curious and positive about how the gender diverse person would like to be seen. It might seem like there is a lot to learn about gender diversity, but the most important thing to learn is how to specifically respect the gender diverse people in your life.
An important role of the family is to be an ally for the gender diverse person. If you are able to explain the importance of this to other family members this can be really helpful to the gender diverse person in your life. However before speaking to others, it is important to make sure that you have permission to do so, and that you understand how your gender diverse family member wants to be described at this point in time. A gender diverse person who is still struggling to understand themselves might wish things to be kept private, particularly from family members who might be hostile to gender diversity. It can take time to come out and disclose to others, and it is important to respect that process.
There are other ways to support gender diverse family members outside of the family context. Showing visible support towards LGBTIQ+ issues on social media can indicate that you are a potential ally and a safe person to talk to. You can encourage people to seek out support services or social groups, such as those offered at AGA. If you see someone in your family who is struggling, help them to find out about support services. High rates of mental health issues in the LGBTIQ+ community are linked to discrimination and stigma, which needs to be tackled directly. Finding a supportive community with shared experiences can help this enormously.
- Gender diverse people are looking for the same kinds of courtesy and respect that binary gendered people are accustomed to in their day to day lives.
- Gender diverse people are also individuals who have different and varying needs, so it is important to not make assumptions. Simply ask them what works best for them!
- Families can be a significant source of anxiety for gender diverse people for many reasons, but they can also be supportive and safe. This is why it can be important for gender diverse people to know who their allies are in their family.
- It is important to respect the privacy of gender diverse people who are not out yet. This is especially true because, sadly, some family members may respond with hostility.
- Support is not just about making sure the family environment is safe, but ensuring your family member is supported. Without being invasive, ask them what they need to feel safe and validated.