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Helping Kids Be Responsible, Happy, and Successful

THE WONDERS OF GENDERS

A DAUGHTER BECOMES A SON

Recently, a dear friend from the past reached out to me. During our family updates he shared that his daughter was now his son. I was not surprised. 

I recall my friend’s son being a brilliant little girl who seemed to be uncomfortable in her own skin. My observation was bolstered by her strong gravitation toward everything usually relegated to boys. For example, she preferred playing with “boy things,” and her interests and abilities fell into the “boy category.”

To my friend’s and his wife’s credit, they never discouraged their daughter’s propensities. And when she became a preteen, they accepted her proclamation that she was a boy. Of course, they worried about the social ramifications of his newly established gender identity. Misguided people can be cruel. But his parents’ support seemed to be sufficient for the son to finally be comfortable with who he is.

            GENDER IDENTITY DEFINITIONS

Most people prefer simple and straightforward. That’s why they prefer the simple, straightforward two-category approach to gender identity. But life is not simple, and neither is gender identity. So, it behooves all of us to align ourselves with reality rather than misperceptions—beginning with some basic definitions.

I found an informative article on the Medicine Net website titled, What are the 4 Genders? The article was written by Medical Author, Karthik Jumar, MBBS and reviewed by Medical Reviewer, Shaziya Allarakha MD on January 19, 2021. According to the article:

There are many different words and labels that people use to describe their sex or gender characteristics and identities. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Cisgender: A word used to describe people whose gender agrees with their body sex or assigned sex.
  • Trans and Gender Diverse: A general word for people whose gender is different from their physical sex, including transgender people.
  • Transgender: A person whose gender identity or gender expression does not conform to that typically associated with their sex assigned at birth.
  • Genderqueer/Non-binary: Any gender identity that sits within, outside of, across or between the spectrum of the male and female is binary. A non-binary person might identify as gender-fluid, transmasculine, transfeminine, agender, bigender, etc.
  • Intersex: A person born with reproductive organs, hormone levels and/or sex chromosomes that isn’t exclusively male or female. There are many different states of being intersex. They are not always obvious on the outside or even diagnosed.
The article also had this to say about gender dysphoria:

Gender Dysphoria is when a child feels distressed because their gender identity differs from their sex. This distress might affect their school or home life. Not all gender diverse children have gender dysphoria. Some children are comfortable identifying as a gender that is different from what they were assigned at birth. Being gender diverse or experimenting with gender expression isn’t a problem unless the child seems upset or distressed about their gender. However, some children do experience gender dysphoria, especially if they experience bullying, stigma, or discrimination at school or other places.

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A CHILD’S GENDER IDENTITY

When I was a lot younger, I believed the notion that a person was either male or female. I was so confident in this belief, I wrote a children’s book titled You’re Either One or the Other. Thankfully, the book was never published.

What I didn’t know then is the fact that there are myriad gender identities and it’s up to each and every person to determine and define their gender identity. It is not up to parents, or anyone else, to determine a child’s gender identity.

So, what is a parent’s role in the determination of a child’s gender identity? Here are a few tips:

  1. Avoid imposing onto your child your hope or expectation regarding their gender identity.
  2. Allow your child to choose his or her own “look” by choosing their own hairstyles, clothing, etc.
  3. Make available to your child both “boy” and “girl” toys, activities and experiences and allow them to embrace and interact with the things they choose.
  4. Expose your child to professionals who are doing jobs that are often relegated to the opposite sex and affirm the fact that your child can pursue a job or profession no matter what is their gender identity.
  5. In the event your child encounters a person with a unique gender identity, applaud the person’s uniqueness and reinforce the benefits of a world in which every person is allowed to be themselves.
  6. In the event your child experiences Gender Dysphoria, do whatever is necessary to help them process and work through it.
  7. Understand that a person’s gender identity might change at different stages during their life.
  8. Encourage your child to be whoever they are and support wherever your child is regarding his or her gender identity at every stage of his or her life.

                       ONE LAST THING

Sometimes there is confusion between gender identity, gender roles, and sexual orientation. Here’s the basic differences between the three terms:

  • Gender identity is a personal concept of oneself as male, female, both male and female or neither male nor female.
  • Gender role is a person’s learned attitudes and behavior, based on his or her gender identity, as determined by the prevailing cultural norms.
  • Sexual orientation is a person’s identity in relation to the gender or genders to which the person is sexually attracted.

Sexual orientation is a subject for another time. But in the meantime, if your child asks you a question about sexual orientation, you might want to be prepared to give an age-appropriate, but accurate and honest, answer. 

I recommend beginning with a June 21, 2018, New York Times article, The ABCs of  L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+, by Michael Gold (that was updated on June 7, 2019). It is very informative and includes definitions for all of the letters in L.G.B.T.Q.I.A.+.

IN CLOSING, thankfully we are living at a time when a better understanding of gender identity is allowing people to be who they are rather than who others desire or decide they should be. This includes both your child and you. Enjoy!

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