Updated: Apr 24, 2020
If you're a parent, it's simple. You know caring for and supporting your children is fundamental.
We all want our kids to be happy, healthy, safe... and accepted.
It's the same if you're a parent of a gender questioning or trans child. You want them to be happy, healthy and safe.
If you're not a parent of a trans or gender diverse child (GDC), you likely don't know how challenging it is to get the support needed. It is rarely easy, always exhausting and support is often not readily accessible.
What can 'WE the community' do to inform ourselves to make it better for ALL parents? To be able to stand up and say NO to trans hate messages and transphobia.
Below we teardown some of the many Myths that exist around trans and gender expansive children. These myths create backlash for families and caregivers of trans children and they really need to be busted.
Why the backlash in helping support parents to better care for their children?
Where is all this fear and caution coming from? Let's take a closer look at a few of the top myths below.
In September 2018, parents in the Invisible Parents Club celebrated a quiet triumph. They cried happy tears because of a Report released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Because it often feels like our voices as parents, as those living and experiencing our trans or GNC youth every single day, is simply not enough - not valid.
Unless this policy care statement is embraced by caregivers and community members, the stigma attached to our children will live on. And this stigma ends lives. It's serious.
Why is this such big news for parents and allys of trans and GDC youth?
This policy statement is:
Released by the AAP; 67,000+ medical professionals, a long-standing credible body of physicians, who work with children;
and their findings are truly supportive.
There are numerous hate groups sprouting transphobic myths surrounding the care of trans youth - so it's critical to know what are the credible sources.
MYTH #1: Mental Illness
The AAP states in the policy that being trans does not equal having a mental illness:
“Being transgender or gender variant implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities” – American Psychiatric Association, 2012.
As supportive parents of trans kids, we see this everyday and know this to be true.
'There is no evidence that risk for mental illness is inherently attributable to one’s identity of TGD. Rather, it is believed to be multifactorial, stemming from an internal conflict between one’s appearance and identity, limited availability of mental health services, low access to health care providers with expertise in caring for youth who identify as TGD, discrimination, stigma, and social rejection.'
What does this mean? Trans youth (TGD) are more likely to experience anxiety, depression but this is likely symptomatic of the conflict they are experiencing in relation to the level of (or lack of) support they are receiving.
Bottom line: when supported and loved unconditionally, often symptoms of anxiety and depression will go away.
'Youth who identify as TGD often confront stigma and discrimination, which contribute to feelings of rejection and isolation that can adversely affect physical and emotional well-being.'
Gender Affirmative Care Model (GACM):
Here's the key message outlined in the model:
transgender identities and diverse gender expressions do not constitute a mental disorder;
variations in gender identity and expression are normal aspects of human diversity, and binary definitions of gender do not always reflect emerging gender identities;
gender identity evolves as an interplay of biology, development, socialization, and culture; and
if a mental health issue exists, it most often stems from stigma and negative experiences rather than being intrinsic to the child.
So, it becomes about linking families with resources: medical, mental health and social services. Together, their goal is to promote a child's self-worth and create a safe and accepting environment where they are free to explore their gender identity.
"Follow their Lead". Support. Love.
The AAP policy statement focuses on the importance of family support AND also support through the school system and health care professionals. Surprisingly, many health care professionals are not trained in trans health care or on gender diversity.
In the schools, affirmative support is about recognizing and respecting a child's gender and pronoun; providing safe spaces like washrooms, changing-rooms and safe sports environments and including gender diversity in the curriculum -- making our kids feel safe to be visible, requires firstly being seen.
The HRCE recently introduced an affirmative care model enabling students to update their gender marker within the school information systems, regardless of legal documents. This is a great positive step, albeit under-reported.
What more can schools do?
Embark on a gender education journey early in elementary school;
include gender diverse children in class room exercises and lesson plans;
make GNC and Trans youth visible;
make them apart of your teaching world.
Check out a few books in our Resource section for inspiration!
MYTH #2: Most kids change their minds if ignored
'Education is a necessity. Without education we are less safe and less healthy, both physically and mentally. This applies to every aspect of health, including sexual health. Understanding sexual orientation and gender identity and how to be an ally to LGTBQ people is a good approach to ensuring that youth have good mental, emotional and physical health. '
Let's talk about reparative/conversion therapy and desistance myths:
Now illegal in Nova Scotia and several other provinces, for those who don't know what this means, it's the notion: 'let's therapy the gay out of our children'. Sadly, there are many loud and radical groups who want to 'cure' trans and GDC youth.
The Department of Justice in Nova Scotia, only last month, passed an important legislation, prohibiting the use of the discriminatory and harmful therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of young people who identify as 2SLGBTIQ+.
And yet, in conversation this past Winter with a local Halifax-area psychologist, their understanding of trans youth was, 'if left alone, most children will change their mind about being trans.' She implied, they outgrow it.
How can misinformation like this be perpetuated by healthcare workers?
The misguided belief that a child can 'outgrow' or 'desist' is both harmful in promoting stigma and mistreatment of trans youth and GDC.
If an 80% statistic comes to mind, let's take a moment to officially debunk it:
This '80% of children will desist if left alone' stat often appears at the top of search engine results when new parents of GNC are trying to better understand what it means for their child to be gender questioning.
Why? Because it's been pushed out by anti-trans groups that are good at hiding the flawed methodology used in creating the study. They are loud and they have an agenda.
Here's what the AAP has to say about it:
"The AAP agrees with most people who’ve looked at those studies and finds they have “validity concerns, methodologic flaws, and limited follow up on children who identified as TGD”
The Human Rights Commission has been sharing this message for some time now.
Myth #3 - Children can't possibly know who they are
A person’s deep internal sense of being female, male, a combination of both, somewhere in between, or neither, resulting from a multifaceted interaction of biological traits, environmental factors, self-understanding, and cultural expectations
Children can be aware and assert their gender identity from as early as 2-years-old. More often, gender identity is openly asserted around the age of 4-years-old.
And let's be clear, the whole 'If I say I'm a dog, that doesn't make me a dog' debate is ignorant. Full stop. It's degrading and it's trans erasure. We're not debating the existence of transgender people here. So if that's all you've got, go back to your sofa and your computer and keep hatin'.
Here's what the AAP knows about this:
'...research substantiates that children who are prepubertal and assert an identity of TGD know their gender as clearly and as consistently as their developmentally equivalent peers who identify as cisgender and benefit from the same level of social acceptance.'
And here's a not-so-surprising revelations:
...rather than focusing on who a child will become, valuing them for who they are, even at a young age, fosters secure attachment and resilience, not only for the child but also for the whole family.
More education is needed.
Trans youth and GDC have only truly been able to live authentically and openly supported in the past decade. And even that is a stretch.
Many barriers still exist and their safety is vulnerable every single day.
These young pioneers are helping to shape a path for a better future.
They are brave.
But they are young and they NEED support.
Here's a little background on our journey from a friend and a photographer who's helping us capture a moment in time. I am compelled to share real information to raise awareness and support.
Because... being invisible is simply too hard and too exhausting.
And the myths suck. They isolate us from the village our families need to be apart of.
We hope in time, these facts and policies will become household knowledge and taught freely within society and work for supporting all trans and GDC children Canada-wide and beyond.
Here's a full link to the policy statement .
Thanks for paying attention.
Cyndi is a consultant and inclusion educator and is a Chapter Leader of PFLAG Halifax, an international non-profit organization helping to keep families together through LGBTQ2 support, resources and education.
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