Dear Ask A Therapist, I did not grow up in an open LGBT environment, so sometimes I am not sure how to answer my children’s questions about the nature of gender identities and so forth. My children …
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Dear Ask A Therapist,
I did not grow up in an open LGBT environment, so sometimes I am not sure how to answer my children’s questions about the nature of gender identities and so forth. My children understand that my spouse and I are accepting of all, but where can I find basic information that helps to put everything in perspective?
Great question. This challenge can be tricky to navigate if you are unfamiliar.
There are lots of resources that can be shared with children. One of my personal favorites is The Gender Unicorn, developed by Trans Student Educational Resources. This is an educational tool that illustrates gender identity, expression, sexual orientation and sexual anatomy. You and your children can mark your own gender experiences on the different parts of the Gender Unicorn. It’s a fun, interactive tool that can help answer some questions in a concrete way.
For information regarding terminology and the complexity of gender, genderspectrum.org can be a useful website. It discusses the dimensions of gender including the difference between sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
The most important thing of all is creating an open dialogue between your children, yourself and your spouse regarding gender identity. Children from a young age are very aware of gender. If parents avoid talking about it, children will be more influenced by society’s expectations and values regarding gender identity.
Creating an open dialogue gives parents a chance to share their own values and shape their children’s understanding. Children receive ideas about gender from the people around them as well as the boxes society puts them into based on gender stereotypes. You can help expand the narrow boxes to include a range of other influences.
Planned Parenthood suggests that the next time you sign up your child for a new activity or buy them a new toy, ask yourself these questions to help you think through whether you are reinforcing gender stereotypes: Does my child like this already or am I picking it up just because of their gender? Does this choice expand or limit my child’s expectation of who they could grow up to be? And would I feel comfortable with this choice if my child wasn’t the gender that she/he is? Give your children choices and foster a dialogue that can help put things into perspective.
Aisha Henry, MA, LPC, is an outpatient therapist with the Justice Accountability and Recovery Program at Community Reach Center. Aisha has worked for Community Reach Center for two and a half years and is a member of the LGBTQIA+ Subcommittee.
Please submit your questions to Ask A Therapist at AskATherapist@CommunityReachCenter.org. This column is for educational purposes only, and opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media. Answers are not a substitute for regular or urgent medical consultation and treatment.
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