The Transgender Child, by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper

transgenderchildThis is a handbook/parenting guide with regards to transgender and gender-fluid children, with special emphasis on the various concerns (medical, legal, educational, etc) involved in raising gender-variant children.

Gender is and has always been a very fluid thing in my household. One of the things Jason and I always tried to teach our kids is that gender roles are purely social constructs, and there’s really no such thing as “boy toys” or “girl colors” or any other gender segregation. Consequently, our children are all fairly gender-fluid, some to a larger degree than others. I saw this book at my doctor’s office and decided to give it a try, even though the concept of gender variance isn’t new in my household.

The book was split roughly into two sections. The first deals with the concept of gender and core identity. The second is more directed toward parenting advice and the various concerns of parents in raising gender-variant children. I’ll say straight out that as this second part was less a concern to me personally and less what I went into the book to read about, I didn’t pay it as much attention. I was far more interested in the psychology and sociology involved in gender variance in modern society. Perhaps this wasn’t entirely the best book to choose for that interest. Nevertheless, the first half of the book quite satisfied me.

The thing I think many people don’t realize is that there are so many more gender possibilities than just “boy” or “girl.” Even when people do consider transgender people, they still box them into distinct boy-or-girl categories (just categories that don’t match that person’s biological sex). Children, despite being taught gender roles pretty much from birth onwards, are generally much more fluid with the concept of gender. Some feel like a boy or a girl (whether or not that matches their sex). Some feel like both. Some feel like neither. Some feel like a boy some days and a girl other days. This isn’t because they are confused and learning. This is because our society imposes a very rigid definition of gender and after that is ingrained in us, we have a hard time seeing outside that box. Children have yet to be fully put into that box, and still see a myriad of possibilities.

Another thing that people often don’t realize: gender, presentation, and sexual orientation are three very distinct and separate parts of the core self. It’s becoming clearer in modern times that gender and sexual orientation aren’t the same, and that being cisgender, transgender, agender, etc has no bearing on whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, etc. Less understood, at least from my experience, is the idea of identity presentation, or what this book calls behavior and style. For example, a biological boy may love dresses and long hair and things traditionally associated with girls, but this has absolutely nothing to do with his gender or his sexual orientation. He very well may be a cisgender straight male who simply feels more comfortable in a traditionally female behavioral pattern. A person’s presentation, however, does not make them gay or transgender or any other label society wants to put on them. We don’t usually question, for instance, the cisgender straight female who dresses in pants and tshirts. Those presentation-barriers have become far less defined for women. (And yes, this is a longstanding cause of mine, trying to break down those barriers for men.) This book goes into great detail about the differentiation between these three parts of the core identity, and how they are unique and separate from each other.

These are all issues coming more and more to light through social media and news outlets and legislative work. We are far from perfect, both in understanding and in social/legal/medical support. I think books like this can be very helpful in increasing understanding, especially for parents who find themselves unexpectedly confronted with these issues. I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s contained in The Transgender Child.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2015, Adult, Prose and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Transgender Child, by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper

  1. Trish says:

    Fantastic post Amanda! I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know very much about gender issues-though I’m learning more every day and in terms of parenting have tried to be very fluid with my girls. Elle has never scoffed at being put into “camo” boy clothing (that we buy from the boy section of the store) and Evie’s favorite toys are trucks. Just as if we were ever to have a boy, there might quite a bit of pink in his future. I hate that things are so pegged into square boxes!


  2. Trisha says:

    This is a fascinating topic and so very, very important. I try so hard to keep gender out of the equation in toys and games and behavior, but it’s practically impossible unless you live like hermits.


  3. Shaina says:

    I imagine one of the toughest parts is that, outside of your home, so many other people are going to be operating within and imposing the binary upon you and your family. It’s frustrating that there’s only so much we can do on an individual level. 😦


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