“Why can’t I be a girl/boy?”
Your 9-year-old starts expressing dissatisfaction with their gender
Expert Response #1
I can see and hear that you have been thinking a lot about this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Some people identify as a boy, some as a girl, some as neither and some feel like both. Gender can change over time for some people.
What matters most is that you feel good about who you are.
I have some great books that I’d like to share with you. There are some amazing websites too, like AMAZE.org.
Let’s learn about gender together.
I will love you no matter what gender you identify as
Expert Response #2
What about being a girl/boy feels different? There are people who have girl bodies who feel like boys and people who have boy bodies who feel like girls. Some people feel like both or don’t feel like girls or boys at all. How do you see yourself?
[Your next response will depend on the reasons for body dissatisfaction, such as teasing or body dysmorphia]
Let’s talk about your feelings about your body and how we can support you to express your gender in a way that feels like who you really are.
You can choose your clothes, toys and who to spend time with. We love you for how you see yourself and will always take care of you as that person
Expert Response #3
When you’re born the doctor takes a look at your body and decides if you’re a “girl” or “boy”. But some people, as they get older, realise they’re not happy with the decision and want to change it. If this is the case for you, we’re listening
[Longer version] Would you like us to give you a girl/boy nickname? Or to call you she/he? Some people prefer not to have a gender at all.
You can change your mind at any time – just let us know. And we love you whatever gender you are.
It’s also good to remember that girls/boys can do all the same things, so don’t let your gender box you in
Matilda, co-founder of Split Banana
Whatever you say next, keep these things in mind…
Many children and teenagers express gender-nonconforming behaviour, points out Jo Langford of Be Heroes, “so the most important thing is to ask why. Their answers will help guide you – they may want to wear nail polish and not be teased, they may be sorting out their identity, they may be showing interest in activities associated with the opposite sex/gender.” Being gender atypical is about how a child acts, he says, while being gender dysphoric is “more about how a child feels…”
You won’t know for sure if your child is LGBT+ unless they tell you, the charity Stonewall advises parents – so let your child come to you in their own time. Meanwhile say positive things about LGBT+ people and don’t tolerate anyone airing anti-LGBT+ attitudes in your home
Be inclusive! All year round, not just during LGBT+ History Month in February, look at resources like CBBC Newsround’s 12 LGBT+ icons and What it means to “come out” plus the Come Out & Say It guide for young people by the Proud Trust. Regardless of your child’s orientation, have LGBT+ friendly books on hand – from picture books like Made By Raffi and And Tango Makes Three to graphic novels (we love the dark, touching Fun Home by Alison Bechdel of Bechdel film-test fame; try Spinning by Tillie Walden or Drama by Raina Telgemeier) and teen reads like I’ll Give You The Sun and David Levithan books. Also search up lists of “LGBT books for kids”, teens or YA (young adults)
CRISIS NOT AVERTED?
More help with questions around sexuality and identity…
MERMAIDS | Support for gender-diverse children & young people
Set up by parents and offering social and mental-health advice, Mermaids is a lifeline for non-binary, transgender and gender-diverse young people & parents Go to Mermaids >
THE PROUD TRUST | Empowering LGBT+ kids
The Proud Trust – “home of LGBT+ youth” – has got advice, information, groups and events. Parents can learn from it and its colourful resources Go to The Proud Trust >
QUEER KID STUFF | What does GAY mean?!?
Simple video, complete with teddy, blackboard and perky presenter – from a site that offers LGBT+ and social-justice media for all ages Go to What does GAY mean?!? >
Remember: every child is different. Adjust these suggestions for the age and stage of your child. Children with special educational needs and disabilities, looked-after children and children who have experienced abuse may all need different support.
If you’re in doubt about your child’s emotional, physical or psychological development, please seek the advice of a professional