Suddenly, you notice a change in your child’s behavior. Once a star athlete in softball and avid video gamer, now an awkwardly shy kid who wants to stay home and try on his big sister’s new outfits. You brush it off as pretend play because, after all, you’re a progressive parent. However, you get a sinking feeling in your gut as the panic sets in, “What if my son wants to be a girl?”
So many Netflix shows would have already told you that there’s more to gender than being male and female. Gender identity is an individual’s self-concept when it comes to identifying as male, female, both, or neither. It’s a personal lens into one’s experience with their own gender. The gender spectrum is a way to gauge and navigate this experience.
Just as a metronome captures the pulse or beats in music, the gender spectrum metaphorically captures a person’s essence of femininity and masculinity from one end of the spectrum to the other, including anywhere in between. The gender spectrum can also be understood as a continuum of variations that exists for many gender-diverse individuals.
These include behaviors, norms, and roles associated with being a man, woman, both, or none. Due to its nature, the concept of gender varies from society to society and changes over time. In other words, your sex is determined by biology, but gender is socially constructed.
While this issue remains widely debated, the truth of the matter is that there are individuals who do not intuitively conform to gender norms, roles, and stereotypes. Parents may find it challenging when their child begins to develop differently from their peers or the parent’s own experience.
While gender identity is how we see ourselves, sexual identity is about sexual feelings, attractions, and behaviors towards people we are attracted to.
Being male, female, both, or neither is not what people feel they are but what they experience intrinsically. Gender identity is more complicated than body parts and hormones. It is a lived experience. When young children express, “feeling different” from their peers, there isn’t much lived experience to fall back on before things start feeling right for them. This can be alarming for most parents because children are literally beginning to figure things out for themselves. This can bring up fear-based narratives, mainly social and health implications, which is sure to push children away from talking openly about how they feel.
If your child comes to you and tells you that they are questioning their gender identity and whether or not it’s normal to feel that way, it’s helpful to understand that it may not just be a phase and they may not be confused. It’s equally important to understand that gender identity is not set in stone. If your child is questioning how they feel, it’s not uncommon for them to change their mind about how they express their gender before things start feeling “right” for them.
While exploring their identity, they might change their mind about how they feel and who they are. Realizing that your gender doesn’t fit the stereotypes people have can be really challenging. Therefore, the most helpful response is to give them the space they need and allow them to express themselves. However, you can only do that if you understand what they are going through.
For more information on this topic, or if you want to book a consultation feel free to contact me.