Kids and the Expression of Gender Identity

Kids and the Expression of Gender Identity

23 April 2022 • Words by Karla Pretorius 3 mins

In my practice, which is mainly online, I speak with many individuals that are part of the LGBTQ+ community. My sessions are online because of practicality and the effects of the pandemic and to support my clients. They are more comfortable having their cameras off and being online, far away from any possible judgment as they approach our session. Should they have driven to my office, they might have had to stop at a gas station, perhaps they wanted to grab a bite to eat, or they might have needed to use a public bathroom.

These routine stops could have elicited bullying behaviors from others or perhaps reminded individuals of a past event where they were bullied. Maybe they didn’t know which toilet to enter. Maybe they tripped walking into a gas station or were minding their own business during their lunch break. Many of the individuals that struggled with their gender expression at a young age are constantly reminded of not only their confusion with their wants but also of the disapproval of other people in their lives.

We can help – from a young age. According to Wagner and Armstrong (2020), parents can support their transgender children in creating healthy families and cultural sensitivities by paying attention to their child’s interests and questions without judgment. Our kid might be questioning their gender identity, and we can support them here.

Here are three ways to support your kids with the expression of their gender identity: 

Welcome their interests

If your child was born male, but they tend to want to play with “more feminine toys,” let them. Encourage them to find what they are interested in and join them in these activities. You might be surprised how much fun you will have by ignoring the old-school ways of thinking, “blue is for boys and pink for girls!”

Keep communication channels open

If your child questions their identity or explores ways of expressing themselves, let them explore with you. Speak with them and ask them if they have any questions. Maybe you can watch a few videos together of LGBTQ+ advocates. If you can establish an open conversation with your child from a young age, they will likely come to you for support. This might start as support through the questioning stages and turn into fun exploration on this journey. It doesn’t all need to be prevention of bullying, improving assertiveness, and finding the right friends. It can be exciting shopping trips and learning about a section of gender and sexuality that we all need to know more about.

Gender identity is only one part of our identity

I speak with many trans individuals, and they mention that they sometimes feel a little “used” for information. Where people, with good intentions, will ask them to write and advocate for trans rights. It is good to remind ourselves that just like nonbinary, trans and other gender expressions are foreign to most people, it isn’t for them. They are not asking you about your gender preferences daily. For real inclusion to occur, true acceptance should happen first. We inquire when appropriate but connect authentically on various levels – not just about what gender they are and how this affects their lives.

You are your child’s first and most trustworthy confidant as a parent. You love them unconditionally almost instantaneously as they are born (or even before). Follow your intuition and let your child open up to you about their feelings and gender questions. The other thing to remember is that most kids go through phases of being confused about their gender expression. This wonder should not be judged or guided but rather respected.

Wanting to open up the lines of communication with your child? Check out these 53 open-ended questions for kids of all ages!

Wagner LD, Armstrong E. Families in Transition: The Lived Experience of Parenting a Transgender Child. J Fam Nurs. 2020 Nov;26(4):337-345. doi: 10.1177/1074840720945340. Epub 2020 Aug 1. PMID: 32744160.

Karla Pretorius

A registered counselor with a MA in Psychology. Co-founder: AIMS Global & Leadership at: Augmental