Younger generations have always been linguistic trailblazers, often crafting new paths that leave their elders scratching their heads. It’s not always just a generational gap, especially when it comes to the terms related to gender identity parents should learn. When parents may not identify with the same group as their child, understanding this evolving vocabulary becomes even more crucial.
When a child begins to question and discover their own gender identity, this may be the case. The unconditional love and encouragement of a parent during that time is crucial. Parenting a child who doesn’t identify with their assigned gender at birth can be terrifying and perplexing. How would that affect your kid’s security? Where do you plan on receiving help? The definition of transgender identity is unclear. So, what exactly does “nonbinary” mean?
One of the first things a caregiver may do when they follow their child’s lead is to learn some of the basic terminology associated with gender identity. If you want to be a guiding light for your child or an ally for transgender youth, all it takes is understanding the language they use to talk about who they are and what they’ve been through.
Understanding a new language will be critical in helping your trans child make lifesaving relationships with others as they come into their own identity in a transphobic world.
According to Hershel T. Russell, MA, M.Ed., a registered psychotherapist, activist, and nonbinary trans man, “trans and nonbinary children and teens who are well-supported by parents and schools flourish exactly as well as any other group of children.” Those on their own have a far harder time making it through life. Consequences that could have been prevented include depression, anxiety, social isolation, eating disorders, self-harm behaviors, including cutting, and high rates of suicidality.
Help out by using these definitions as a springboard for further research rather than as the final word on the subject. However, the more you read, the more you’ll discover about yourself and your kid. Transgender and gender-nonconforming youth need allies, and you may help by sharing what you’ve learned with them.
Gender Role Assigned at Birth
Parents who care about their baby’s gender beyond the simple “F” or “M” on the birth certificate are becoming less common. A child’s genitalia and sex characteristics are often used to determine this. However, one’s sense of self within each category might be distinct, as sex and gender are not synonymous. A baby’s biological sex is determined before birth, whereas a person’s gender is tied to their sense of self; parents can socially construct a gendered identity for their child by their behavior, but the youngster may not feel comfortable with that gender.
For many trans and intersex persons, this is the first time their bodies have been examined for gender without their permission. Instead of saying a transgender person was “born a boy or girl,” we use the terms “assigned male at birth” (AMAB) and “assigned female at birth” (AFAB) to describe their gender identity. Although most people will continue to assign their children a gender, it is hoped that more parents will consider the possibility that they may have assigned their children the incorrect gender.
If a person chooses to identify with their assigned gender at birth, we call them cisgender (cis). Transphobic organizations and prominent figures in the media have propagated the falsehood that the terms “cis” and “cisgender” are derogatory, although nothing could be further from the truth. So, relax if this is how your children or others in your life characterize you. There is no negative connotation attached to the term at all.
Those whose internalized gender does not correspond to their biological gender are said to be transgender, or trans for short.
Someone who does not identify as either male or female is said to be nonbinary. It is included in the transgender category, as are a wide range of other gender identities. The gender identities that nonbinary persons identify with can range from masculine to feminine to androgynous and beyond. They/them is the most popular set of pronouns used by nonbinary people. However, any pronoun, including he/him and she/her, or even more than one set of pronouns, such as she/they, can be a nonbinary pronoun.
A small number of nonbinary people may use neoprene. Many people have made great gains toward adopting a variety of pronouns, dubbed neopronouns, to convey the diversity of gender identities as trans people, especially nonbinary ones, become more free than ever to come out and be ourselves.
Xe/xer, xe/xem, ze/zim, fae/fair, and ney/nem are just a few of the many neopronouns that have gained popularity in recent years. Some people want to be addressed simply by their given names and refuse to use any form of pronouns. Don’t beat yourself up if you need some practice before correctly using a neopronoun you just learned.
In recent years, transgender children’s human rights have been the target of a lot of damaging rhetoric and attacks. Social, legal, and healthcare transitions are only a few examples.
Most transgender children’s transitions are social, not medical, despite transphobic scare tactics. The process of changing one’s social life typically begins with other changes. It entails making strides in identifying and expressing one’s authentic gender daily. Depending on the individual’s gender identification, this may involve changing their name, pronouns, dress, hairstyle, and even the restroom they use.
Gender-affirming clothing is worn by some transgender people, including binders (a compressive garment worn by some transmasculine people on their chests to flatten breasts), packers (prosthetic penises that can alleviate genital dysphoria for some transmasculine people), and gaffes (special undergarments worn by some transfeminine people to minimize the appearance of the penis and alleviate bottom dysphoria).
Transgender people have the right to change their name and gender marker on official documents, including passports, birth certificates, and driver’s licenses, while the procedures for doing so differ by state. This takes time and money, so you’ll need a team to help you out.
Safe and reversible puberty blockers, normally administered no earlier than the second Tanner stage, when the obvious early changes of puberty begin to occur, are the only medical intervention typically undertaken on children under the age of 16. Doctors conduct thorough evaluations before giving children puberty blockers to see if they are good candidates.
Teenage transgender children may be eligible for cross-sex HRT in their mid-to late teens. With HRT, a trans person might expect to develop many of the secondary-sex features that others their age develop naturally. Medical transition for trans people may involve surgery. However, any such decision should be made collaboratively with a team of doctors and support staff.
A gender-fluid person is one who identifies as neither binary nor binary-neutral. Gender fluidity can be experienced in a wide variety of ways, and several distinct identities fall inside this category. It may take some time to become acclimated to the pronouns and names of someone who experiences gender nonconformity. Encouraging regular pronoun check-ins and offering tools like removable and movable pronoun pins can give children the confidence to talk to you about any changes that may occur. For example, you could ask, “What pronouns are you comfortable with me using today?” to gauge how you feel.
“Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist” or “TERF” for short. Self-identified “feminists” (TERFS) are hostile to transgender persons, particularly trans women. The institutional authority that TERFs hold and the destructive disinformation they promote make them exceedingly dangerous to trans individuals. Unfortunately, many well-intentioned parents fell for this misinformation. The Trans Extreme Right Wing (TERF) is a group of people who identify as “gender critical” and hold the view that one’s biological sex dictates one’s authentic identity and the locations one is allowed to occupy in gendered places.
To be gender creative, or gender-expansive, is to express oneself in ways that challenge conventional notions of gender. They may doubt their gender or how they identify with it, but a gender-creative child is not necessarily transgender. A boy who identifies as female may feel very much like a boy, but he may be labeled gender creative or gender nonconforming if he enjoys wearing skirts and makeup.
Although challenging, raising a transgender child need not be more difficult than raising a cisgender child, even in a hostile world. Educating yourself on this topic is a crucial first step in being the dependable support system any transgender child deserves.
Bear in mind that the terminology trans people use to describe themselves and their experiences varies from person to person. I’m hoping this piece, along with others like it, will help you have the conversations with your kid that will give them the confidence they need to express themselves in the most natural way.