Tips for raising a gender dysphoric child

7 Jan

Raising any child is difficult, but raising a child dealing with GID (Gender Identity Disorder) presents a unique set of challenges for not just the parents but the entire family. A child with GID (For the purposes of this article “child” refer to someone anywhere from several years old to a young teen) has all the same issues as any other child with the added dilemma of feeling completely at odds with the body they were born into. Simply put, the physically born male child will often feel as though they are in fact a girl, and vise-versa for a physically born girl. When that is added into the mix everyone has something to deal with that Dr. Spock never included in his parenting manuals, there is a full plate. There are ways to deal with the issue and raise a very happy child that can thrive. Like any child it takes plenty of love, support, and understanding.

GID is not a mental illness, nor does it mean that a child is necessarily gay. Even if a child born physically male with GID finds himself attracted to other boys, it does not mean he is gay, to him that is what the world would see as a heterosexual attraction. GID presents diagnostic problems as well as it is the one thing in the DSM IV which is self diagnosed. Only the person born with GID knows the true extent of the depth of it’s grip on them. Therapists and psychiatrists are of great help, but they cannot diagnose this, they can simply help the person work through the process of self identification. Finally GID, as has been evidenced by an ongoing Dutch study, is a condition born of an inequitable proportion of hormones being delivered to the developing fetus which causes not only the hypothalamus, but the brain to develop in a manner which is incongruous to the physical body. A male anatomized child therefore had a developmentally female brain.

The first step to raising a child with GID is to realize that even if you think it is a phase, the child takes it very seriously so you should as well. It is never too early to seek professional help for the child. A gender therapist is specifically trained to deal with such issues, and there are family counselors as well which can help the entire unit learn the best way to support and understand the unique challenges faced by a GID child.

To help parents, siblings, and everyone in general understand the needs of children with GID, there are ten key points to consider.

10. Respect the child’s feelings about their GID above all else.

9. The child has every good chance to grow up and be an exceptional and successful person.

8. It is not important right now where the child is going to “end up” related to gender.

7. The most current research indicates that gender variant behavior in children is neither mental disorder nor illness.

6. This doesn’t mean the child is gay, their gender identity and sexual preference are completely unrelated.

5. This isn’t about anything the parents or anyone else has done wrong.

4. If you feel overwhelmed get support and accurate information.

3. Continue providing the child with unconditional love and care giving.

2. This is significant and the child takes it very seriously.

1. The child does not experience their gender as others see them.

While those points have been stressed more than once, that has been because they are very important things to understand. Understanding what your child is going through as best as you can is the biggest key to being able to help them in the best way possible. Since most parents with GID children have never experienced GID them self, education is the key to being able to understand them. It is not only important for the parents, but siblings as well because often there are periods in which resentment becomes an issue. If it is hard for an adult to understand, imagine the confusion another child would have in regards to the situation.

Several years ago an organization named Transactive took the concerns of children and created the Transgender Children’s Bill of Rights. These are the concerns of children as expressed by the children. While their words may be simplistic, they carry a ton of weight and help people understand some of the emotions a child with GID deal with as well as what they perceive as their needs. Again, since the child takes this seriously, everyone else should as well.

– I have the right to be on the outside who I am on the inside, even if I’m very young.

– I have the right to dress in the clothes that make me comfortable.

– I have the right to live with my parents and not be taken away from them because of my gender identity or what care they choose for me.

– I have the right to be taught by teachers that understand gender identity is a spectrum, not binary.

– I have the right to have adults understand I am not being naughty, dramatic, or doing this on purpose.

– I have the right to be in a classroom where other students have been taught about the gender spectrum where I can be safe, and not have to answer a lot of questions or be teased about my gender.

I have the right to use the right bathroom for me.

– I have the right to learn about other people in history whose gender didn’t match the body they were born in.

– I have the right to join a club or sport that fits my identity.

– I have the right to go through puberty in the gender that I identify with.

– I have the right to be a regular kid. To work hard and play freely, to be punished when I’m bad, get the the grades I earned, to be free of people pitying me or staring at me.

As a parent, much can be learned by just listening to your child. They will tell you what they need, it is your responsibility to help them get it. A child with GID did not ask to be born this way, it is just the way they are. By identifying this early the odds of the child having as normal a life as possible are greatly increased. Early intervention allows the child the ability to learn right away what how best to deal with something that will always be a part of their life. It allows for an early enough diagnosis to allow a child to take hormone blockers at the onset of puberty so that they have more time as a young adult to determine what is the correct path for them to follow without the burden of the further development of primary and secondary physical sexual characteristics.

What a child with GID needs is their parent(s) and family as a whole. They need people to understand this is not just a phase most likely and that they are supported and loved just as any other child. They need you as the parent to be their advocate and voice in the adult world because they will encounter many roadblocks from people that do not or refuse to understand their unique situation. Like any child, above all else they need love. Support is all around you if you ask for it.

TYFA Transgender Children’s Bill of Rights

Transactive

DSM IV

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