“I’ve accepted that my 6-year-old is gender-creative, but it’s difficult to handle negative feedback from others, especially from those with some influence (e.g. doctor, teacher). How can I avoid becoming overwhelmed by offensive remarks about my kid?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Loni Jorgenson
It can be difficult raising a little rainbow in a society of two extremes: pink and blue. It is difficult not to worry about what others say or think about our children or the way we are choosing to raise them. However, remember that you’re raising your child with an open mind because you love them and want what is best for them.
My first suggestion would be to take the opportunity to educate these individuals and professionals. When others make negative comments about gender-creative children, they are often simply uneducated about or unfamiliar with what gender creativity means. Keep in mind that before meeting your child, perhaps they had never met another gender-creative child before. There are amazing resources online you can print and provide to teachers or healthcare professionals to help them understand your child. Gender Spectrum and TransYouth Family Allies has an array of handouts for educators and healthcare professionals.
Something important to keep in mind is to trust your gut. As your child’s parent, you know them best. If for any reason you believe your child is not safe with a certain professional, seek a new one. Do not continue services with a professional you do not trust with your child. When my son’s speech therapist suggested his gender creativity was becoming a problem and recommended I cut his hair, stop painting his nails, and tell him to talk like “a big boy,” I immediately pulled him from her services. With her closed-minded opinion of my son, I did not feel safe leaving him alone with her out of fear of what she might say to him in private.
Finding an encouraging community is also a great way to receive the support you need. This may seem easier said than done; however, there are resources available! If you do not live in a community with a gender-creative support group, reach out to families online or consider starting your own. Even if you have trouble finding local families, there are online meetings to connect with others going through the same experiences. Out Proud Families, for example, gives online support to families of LGBTQ kids. Join social networking groups for gender-creative children. Rainbows at Play is a website dedicated to helping parents find playdates for their gender-creative children. Lori Duron’s blog Raising My Rainbow, in which she discussed raising her gender-creative son CJ, is another great online resource for parents of gender-creative children. Many communities also have general LGBT support groups, such as PFLAG. When my son began pressing to be more and more feminine, I reached out to PFLAG for support and advice and was able to find a mentor to help us with decisions regarding my son’s gender creativity. These support groups can be an amazing resource and you may be able to find someone who can mentor you in this journey.
Never stop advocating for your child. When I began advocating for gender-creative children, I questioned whether or not I was doing the right thing. But then I stepped back and thought: if I was advocating for children with autism or any other issue needing advocacy and awareness, I would not be questioning myself— so why was I holding back now? I realized that I was afraid of what others may think because of the way society has shaped us. Unfortunately, I believe this is what holds so many of us back. Instead, we need to help change these societal views. We need to show others it is okay to be different. It is not our children who need to change; it is our societal views that need to change.
If at any time along the journey this becomes too overwhelming to handle on your own, seek help from an experienced, open-minded mental health professional. There are amazing professionals out there who will love working with you and your child. Never give up; you and your child are in this together! Support them and love them. As another mama told me, “Be strong and brave…you’ve got this!”
Loni Jorgenson lives in Iowa and is a mother of two. She has a gender-creative son who loves tutus and sparkles! Loni has her bachelor’s degree in Child Development & Family Studies from Minnesota State University, Mankato. She works as a family navigator, helping families with special needs children. In her free time, Loni loves spending time with her children, reading and researching, hunting for amazing retro finds with her significant other, and helping with gender-creative and autism support groups.