It is hard for dads to ignore the significance of gender identify in our children's lives today. Whether you think it’s just a passing phase or your child being able to manifest their true identity, this is a conversation that every parent needs to think about. Modern dads have a very important role to play here since things have changed tremendously over the decades and “man up” … “stop being a sissy” and “don’t act like a girl” are no longer acceptable responses to gender identity divergent children.
Embracing diversity can foster healthier relationships with our kids, creating an environment where they feel loved and accepted for who they are. So let’s delve into the journey of raising genderqueer kids and how it reshapes our understanding of parenthood.
Overcoming The Unique Challenge Of Masculine Dads and Generational Gender Differences In Their Children
This conversation is especially difficult for dads and grandfathers since we were raised in an era when men were men and it wasn’t acceptable for boys to cry or show weakness - much less be interested in embracing a more feminine lifestyle or a blend of male and female expression.
Genderqueer, Non-Binary, and Transgender Are Different
Before we go too far, it is important to take a moment to better understand the different types of gender identity that exists. However, unless you are a therapist - don’t worry if some of these terms and gender definitions seem strange or even silly. As a dad though, it is essential that you take the time to listen to your son or daughter and help them through a difficult time so that they can figure out what’s right for them.
|Individuals whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth
|Transgender individuals, children whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth, often have parents seeking a relevant book for guidance.
|Individuals who do not identify exclusively as a man or a woman
|Individuals whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the concept of the binary genders
|Individuals whose gender identity varies over time
|Individuals who do not identify with any gender
|Individuals who identify as two genders
|Individuals who have both masculine and feminine characteristics
|A term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe certain people in their communities who fulfill a traditional third-gender ceremonial role
Bridging the Generational Gap
Generational differences can create a gap in understanding gender identities. Many families grapple with this issue, especially when raising genderqueer kids. Take Sam's family for example. Sam identifies as non-binary but their dad, a traditionally masculine figure, struggles to understand this concept due to his upbringing.
Challenges of Traditional Masculinity
For dads like Sam's who grew up with clear-cut gender roles, accepting diverse gender identities can be a tough pill to swallow. These fathers may experience anxiety and confusion about how to approach neutral parenting.
Here are some common issues they face:
- Misunderstanding of non-binary or genderqueer identities.
- Fear of societal judgement.
- Difficulty in changing long-held beliefs.
Strategies for Acceptance
Overcoming personal biases and prejudices isn't easy but it's possible. Here are some steps these fathers can take:
- Educate themselves: Understand what it means to be genderqueer or non-binary.
- Open dialogue: Have honest conversations with their children about their feelings and experiences.
- Seek professional help: Therapists or support groups can provide guidance and reassurance.
In the end, remember that every child's story is unique. And every parent’s journey towards acceptance is too. It might be riddled with challenges but it's definitely worth it for the love of our kids.
Understanding Your Child's Gender Identity
The incidents of mental illness, suicide, and self harm are off the charts when it comes to young adults who suffer from gender dysphoria. For example, among non-binary youth, more than 41% had attempted suicide at least once according to a HRC study. This is well over double the national average.
The number one thing that you can do to help your child is to be there for them. Make sure they know that while you might not understand - you aren’t there to judge.
Recognizing Non-Binary Signs
Identifying signs of non-binary or transgender identity in children can be challenging. Some kids might prefer clothes typically associated with the opposite sex or insist on using different names and pronouns. It's crucial to remember that these could be indicators of their true gender, not necessarily linked to their birth sex.
- Preferring boy's clothes for girls
- Using he/him pronouns for a girl
- Insisting on a different name
- Adopting grooming styles more commonly considered typic of the opposite sexual orientation such as long hair for boys and short hair for girls.
Open Communication is Key
Establishing open communication channels with your child about their feelings and experiences is vital. Ask them how they feel about physical changes during puberty, social transition, or if they identify more as a boy or girl.
- Discuss puberty and its impact.
- Talk about social transition.
- Ask which gender identities they relate to.
Differentiating Identity, Sex, and Orientation
Understanding the difference between gender identity, biological sex, and sexual orientation is essential when raising genderqueer kids:
- Gender Identity: How one identifies oneself (boy, girl, both, neither).
- Biological Sex: The physical characteristics one is born with (male or female).
- Sexual Orientation: Who one is attracted to emotionally/sexually.
Remember that each aspect is independent of the other and can vary greatly between individuals. The challenge that dads face here is that while you want to be as supportive as possible - indeed serving as an aly - it is also important to recognize that puberty and adolescence is a confusing time. Things that seem normal for us as adults - are new to your children.
Additionally, it is essential to consider that the concept of “Tom Boy” or “Butch” does not necessarily mean that a biological female necessarily wants to be identified as a boy. The same is true for boys that might want to play with Disney princess dolls or has an interest in makeup.
Beyond Traditional Gender Binaries
Let's dive into the spectrum that goes beyond the traditional male-female binary system. We're talking about a world where gender nonconforming, non-binary, and agender identities exist and are respected.
The Spectrum of Genders
- Non-Binary: This term is used by people who don't identify as exclusively male or female. They might feel like they're a mix of both, neither, or fluctuate between genders.
- Genderqueer: A catch-all category for gender identities outside the binary of male and female. It's all about breaking free from gender stereotypes.
- Agender: This is for those who see themselves as without gender. It's not about being androgynous but about the absence of gender.
- Cisgender: Males and Females who conform to society and historical definitions of how the genders should be manifested.
These might seem like new words or trends in society, but it's more than just something trendy - it's an essential way for people to express their true selves.
Society is evolving, albeit slowly, to include these diverse genders. From legal recognition to changing language norms (using 'they' as a singular pronoun), things are shifting:
- More inclusive forms now ask for your "gender" instead of "sex."
- Celebrities like Sam Smith and Elliot Page have publicly identified as non-binary or trans.
- TV shows and movies are featuring more diverse sexual orientations - lesbian, trans characters aren't just sidekicks anymore.
Still got questions? That’s cool! Understanding this isn’t always easy or straightforward – after all, we’re challenging deeply ingrained societal norms here! But remember: everyone deserves to be recognized for who they truly are – no matter what that looks like on the spectrum of genders.
Supporting Transgender or Genderqueer Children
If you’ve made it this far, that’s a great sign that you are a super dad who is engaged with making sure that his child is able to grow up safe, happy, and healthy. Here’s some ways that you can help support them on their journey from childhood to being an adult member of society.
Show Your Support
Your transgender child needs your love and support more than anything. Here's how you can show it:
- Respect their pronouns. It's a small gesture but means the world to them.
- Educate yourself about transgender people, rights, and issues. The more you know, the better you can help.
- Find a good therapist who specializes in gender issues.
When it comes to healthcare for your transgender kids:
- Look into puberty blockers for teenagers. While this can be controversial, taking the opportunity to explore the option with your child can be a positive moment so that they know you aren’t saying no without looking into it.
- Explore hormone therapy under proper medical supervision.
- Consult with professionals who understand transgender youth health concerns.
Remember, every step should be discussed and decided upon as a family.
Dealing with Bullying
Bullying is sadly common for many transgender and genderqueer children at school. Here's what you can do:
- Teach them resilience skills
- Report incidents to the school authorities
- Consider legal action if necessary
Always reassure your child that there's nothing wrong with them - it's the bullies who have the problem.
And remember - supporting a transgender or genderqueer child might feel overwhelming at times, but love and understanding go a long way!
Addressing Mental Health in Gender Dysphoria
Mental health is a huge challenge for children and adolescents regardless of how they view their gender and sexual orientation. However, adding those elements to the mix can cause serious stress.
Spotting the Signs
Gender dysphoria often intertwines with mental health issues. Depression, anxiety, and self-harm tendencies can crop up as kids grapple with their gender identity. It's important to:
- Recognize changes in behavior or mood
- Monitor for signs of social withdrawal
- Stay alert for any mention of self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
A gender therapist can be a lifeline during this time, offering expert guidance and support.
Seeking Professional Help
Managing mental health concerns is essential. A professional versed in transgender issues can provide tailored strategies to cope with emotional distress associated with dysphoria. Therapy options include:
- Individual counseling
- Group therapy sessions
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Remember, it's not about "fixing" anything - it's about providing tools to manage feelings and emotions effectively.
The Power of Family Support
Family plays a crucial role in mitigating psychological distress linked to dysphoria. Here's how you can help:
- Offer unconditional love and acceptance.
- Educate yourself on genderqueer identities.
- Advocate for your child when necessary.
Consider seeking family therapy sessions too – they offer a safe space for everyone to express their feelings and fears.
Lastly, remember that surgery may be part of your child’s journey towards aligning their physical appearance with their gender identity - but it’s not an instant cure-all for mental health struggles tied to gender dysphoria.
Tips For Dads Raising Genderqueer Kids
Raising kids is a challenge but there are some unique aspects of raising genderqueer kids that dads need to take into consideration.
Raising kids, especially genderqueer ones, can be a unique journey. Here are some practical tips:
- Open Communication: Encourage them to express their feelings and thoughts.
- Respect Identity: Acknowledge their self-identified gender and use the pronouns they prefer.
- Support Groups: Connect with other parents or support groups for advice and shared experiences.
Education is Key
Understanding diverse gender identities is crucial when raising genderqueer kids. It's not just about knowing the terms but understanding the experiences associated with each identity. Resources like books, podcasts, webinars can be helpful.
Legal and Societal Challenges
Raising kids in a society that may not fully understand or accept diverse genders can bring legal and societal challenges. These might include:
- Bullying at school.
- Difficulty in changing name or gender marker on legal documents.
- Discrimination in healthcare settings.
Despite these challenges, remember that your role as a parent is to provide love, support, and acceptance for your child's authentic self.
More Resources To Help Dads Raising Genderqueer and Transgender Kids
While we tried to make this article as comprehensive as possible to help dads like you navigate through this very difficult time, we can't possibly have all the answers. So, we've pulled together a lists of some other sites that we recommend you check out to get more insight and advice on raising genderqueer kids.
- Support Resources for Families of Gender Diverse Youth - This site offers information on national and international organizations that support families with gender diverse children. Visit here
- Resources for Parents of Transgender Youth - This site provides books, reading lists, and resources for parents of transgender children, youth, and teens about supporting your child through their gender transition. Visit here
- LGBTQIA+ Resources for Parents - Seattle - PEPS - This site acknowledges intersectionality and how a person's identities overlap with their role as a parent or caregiver. Visit here
- Transgender Children & Youth: Understanding the Basics - This site from the Human Rights Campaign provides insights into understanding transgender children and youth. Visit here
- Parents for Transgender Equality National Council - This site from the Human Rights Campaign showcases parents across the country taking action to support and protect their transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive children. Visit here
- Parents - Mermaids - This site provides information on gender dysphoria and the experiences of transgender people. Visit here
Wrapping It Up
Navigating the journey of raising genderqueer kids can seem like uncharted territory, right? But hey, you're not alone! There's a wealth of resources out there to help dads like you understand and support your child's unique gender identity. Remember, it's all about love, acceptance, and open communication.
Now that we've shared some insights and resources with you, it's your turn to take the next step. Reach out to those communities, read up on experiences from other parents in similar situations. Keep learning and growing alongside your child. Remember - their journey is also yours!