Former American basketball player Dwyane Wade and wife Gabriel Union recently announced that their 12-year-old child, born as Zion is transgender, and wants to identify as a female named Zaya.
Zaya’s parents are now ensuring she gets the “best opportunity to be herself,” Wade said in TheEllenShow. With rising awareness about the spectrum of gender and sexuality, this comes as a welcome move on the part of the parents to allow their child to break out of the gender binary and accept her true self.
Truth be told, while a few parents are now adopting a gender neutral way of raising their child, gender stereotypes still persist from an early age. The rigid barrier between femininity and masculinity may have even loosened a little, but it’s still not an easy journey to make. Many authors and other experts are also cautioning against using terms such as ‘like a girl” or “tomboy”.
Experts have said that children begin policing each other for adherence to strict gender rules at as early as four years of age. After all, their conditioning is fed by stereotypes they see around them, in terms of their clothes, toys to media and books.
It is recommended that children be ideally allowed to explore their gender identity without being put into boxes. To push a child to conform to set gender norms can restrict their emotional growth and effect their mental health negatively. According to the website of Human Rights Campaign (HRC), familal rejection can lead LGBTQ youth to engage in behaviours that put their health at risk, trigger depression and other mental health issues or even lead to suicide.
For most gender non-conforming kids, coming out to parents and seeking their acceptance is a crucial part of their battle. A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that transgender children who are allowed to present their gender identity and change their names have better mental health outcomes. The main aim of any parenting approach should be the child’s wellbeing; being in denial of their true identity and forcing to “correct” them will only have the opposite effect.
The first step for parents is to accept their child’s transitioned identity, without trivialising it as just a passing phase. Make it a practice to address them by their chosen name and pronoun, be it “he”, “she” or “they”, as recommended by the HRC website. Your child may be grappling with a lot of emotions now, especially because they have to battle censure and ridicule by people on a daily basis, so it important for you to talk to them, acknowledge their feelings and support them completely.
To help the child, parents need to be well informed on gender issues first. That does not mean you would now start dictating children on what being transgender is all about; instead you follow their lead since there is no right way to being trans, Joel L Young, MD, who teaches psychiatry wrote in an article in Psychology Today.
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