Gender Health

Whether you are parenting a young child who is gender creative or an older youth who has come out as trans, you may have a lot of questions.

What is gender health?

Over the past decade, a group of clinicians and researchers who specialize in care for gender creative children and trans youth have proposed the idea of “gender health.” Gender health means living in the gender that feels most real or comfortable, and freely expressing that gender. Another way to describe living in the gender that is most real or comfortable, is living in one’s authentic gender. So, supporting gender health means helping a child or youth to freely live in and express their authentic gender self1.

The authentic gender self

Authentic, genuine, real, true. The term authentic gender self refers to a core part of our identity. For most people, their authentic gender self is consistent with the sex they were assigned at birth. They express who they truly are within the gender norms of culture and society. Others expand the traditional boundaries of gender or reject gender norms altogether, expressing their gender in ways that are seen as non-conforming. For some people, the authentic gender self is not aligned with the sex assigned to them at birth. Their gender expression may vary and may or may not fit with binary gender norms for men and women. As children, they may identify as gender creative or gender expansive. As youth and adults, they may find that one or more of the many identities under the large umbrella of trans fits with their authentic gender self.  

Many children, youth and adults with gender creative and trans identities are supported in identifying and expressing their authentic gender selves. Their families, partners, friends, teachers and other important people honour their true gender selves and celebrate the expressions of who they are. These individuals may face challenges in the world, but with strong support from the loved ones in their lives, they can develop the resilience and confidence needed to express their authentic gender selves in the world2. With support, they can grow to be happy, healthy and confident people who thrive in life.

  1. Hidalgo, M. A., Ehrensaft, D., Tishelman, A. C., Clark, L. F., Garofalo, R., Rosenthal, S. M., Olson, J. (2013). The Gender Affirmative Model: What We Know and What We Aim to Learn. Human Development, 56(5), 285–290.
  2. Olson, K. R., Durwood, L., DeMeules, M., & McLaughlin, K. A. (2016). Mental health of transgender children who are supported in their identities. Pediatrics, 137(3), 1–8. 


 


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