We don't get it. A person is born. Genitals are checked. Sex is determined. End of discussion. We wrap that little one in the appropriate colored blanket and off we go. Chemicals and hormones and DNA in the baby are different, which changes brain and muscle and "bornthatway" responses if they have male or female genitals. And the sex of that baby tells us how to interact with them. Those interactions are how we engender a child.
- We pick up, comfort, and hold pink-blanketed babies more than blue-blanketed babies
- We use different voice inflections when we talk to pink-blanketed babies than blue-blanketed babies
- We use different words when we speak such as, "Oh isn't she sweet?" and "What a big boy."
- As they grow, we hold closer and encourage less wandering to pink-blanketed babies, allowing blue-blanketed babies to wander and explore more.
Media images show kids how to use space between pink-blanked children and between blue-blanketed children
In other words one's gender, a complicated process which is severely simplified here, is shaped by what we believe to be that child's sex: the interactions, media images, educational experiences, peer interactions.
Sex: genitals and DNA and internal stuff
Gender: how we teach a kid to be male or femaleGender identity: how a person feels inside and how they express those feelings. Clothing, appearance, and behaviors can all be ways to express one's gender identity.
Most people feel that they’re either male or female. Some people feel like a masculine female, or a feminine male. Some people feel neither male nor female. Some people’s assigned sex and gender identity are pretty much the same, or in line with each other. Other people feel that their assigned sex is of the other gender from their gender identity (i.e., assigned sex is female, but gender identity is male). (Sex, Gender, and Gender Identity)
According to Transgender Children and Youth, most children and teens go through “phases”--like only wearing all black, dying their hair, being obsessed with a certain band or asking to go by a nickname--but being transgender is not a phase, and trying to dismiss it as such can be harmful during a time when your child most needs support and validation.
You think this is easy for them? That kid often goes through hell--mixed up feelings, people telling them how they should feel, frightened to talk about it with friends and parents. Many transgender young people experience family rejection, bullying and harassment, or feel unsafe for simply being who they are. More than half of transgender male teens (who participated in a survey through American Academy of Pediatrics) reported attempting suicide in their lifetime, while 29.9 percent of transgender female teens said they attempted suicide. MORE THAN FIFTY PERCENT! That's frightening and horrible. We must protect our kids.
Protection means supporting the kid. Reach out to the trans kids in your life. Educate yourself on the biggest issues facing the trans community. Listen and give asked-for advice. Help them learn to stand up for themself when it is safe to do so, as well as teaching them when it is safe. Help schools realize they need to create a safe environment for all students to learn by creating non-discriminating policy. Reach out.
And know what? We don't have to "get it." There's a whole lot of life out there that we just don't get but we accept and move on. Sure, it would be easier for us if we understood that gender identity thing. If it's easier for us, we make it easier for them. But we don't have to "get it" in order to love, protect, and respect that kid.
Reach out. Protect. Listen. Love.