There was one question that the majority of my friends and family immediately asked after hearing I was pregnant: “So, what are you having?” Loved ones, family members, and acquaintances alike all wanted to know if I was going to find out the sex of the fetus growing inside of me, if I would throw a “gender reveal party” and oddly declare the genitals of my unborn child to the world via a box of blue or pink balloons (honestly, what even are these revela parties?!), and how I’d feel about having a boy versus a girl.
In a culture that continues to view the world through a binary lens, far too many of us make assumptions about children, including our default plan of raising them based on the gender they’re assigned at birth. We douse our babies in either blue or pink, put headbands on bald babies girls to avoid a stranger assuming those babies are boys, and put our babies in gendered onesies with phrases like “little diva” and “mommy’s tough guy” and “born to wear diamonds.” We tell little boys they can’t like pink, assume our little girls will want to date men by threatening their future boyfriends, and tell our children that dolls are for girls and toy trucks are for boys. Sure, a ton of parents deviate from the most stereotypical gendered trappings of childhood, but most of us still fall into parenting according to gender lines, even if there’s no pink or blue to be found in our kids’ closets.
One of the only universal things parents have in common is a shared hope that our kids will have things better than we did, in a lot of ways — this, for most parents, includes more space, resources, support, and language to self-identify and freely live in that identity. But as parents, we’re still working our way through acquiring the resources, knowledge, and skills needed to give them that in a world that is still incredibly rooted in the gender binary. We encourage our children to “be themselves,” yet we gender their toys and clothes; we still apply gendered expectations to their whole lives, often before those lives have even started.
If we truly valued our children’s unique identities and the inherent freedom to explore who they are — and if we want to encourage them to express their true selves free from stigma and shame — then we must work to undo what was ingrained in us when we were children. It’s not easy, to be sure, but thankfully there are a number of resources for parents about gender and sexuality that can help aid our children to feel free to discover their true selves, including the following:
Gender Diversity is a non-profit dedicated to helping people gain a better understanding of the wide spectrum of gender identities. The organization provides training, family consultations, access to support groups, and the Gender Odyssey national conference, “where you can engage with the top medical and mental health professionals in the field as well as meet other families navigating similar paths.”
“Gender spectrum works to create gender-sensitive and inclusive environments for all children and teens,” per the organization’s website. Be it community information and specific training on how to best support a gender non-conforming and/or trans child, Gender Spectrum is a great online resource for parents, family members, and anyone else who is charged with caring for a child.
A national organization founded in 1998, the Trevor Project offers crisis counseling and suicide prevention — among many other support systems and informatio — for LGBTQ community members under the age of 25. This is a profound resource for young people who either know they’re LGBTQ, or are curious about their sexual and gender identity and are in search of a safe space to explore those curiosities.
4. Ally Moms
Ally Moms is a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating and supporting transgender youth. Created in 2015 by a group of moms who all parent transgender children, the grassroots organization provides parents with support groups, inclusive and informative book lists, college resources, a glossary of terms parents should know, and training videos.
Advocates for Youth is a young-people centered and led organization that advocates, supports, and informes young people of their reproductive health options and sexual health. Be it fighting for young people’s right to access abortion care, to providing information to young people and their families regarding sexual orientation, safe sex practices, and gender identity, Advocates for Youth is an inclusive, diverse organization that is tirelessly fighting for the dignity and rights of all young people.
By partnering with educators, service providers, and communities, TransYouth Family Allies works to assist both children and their family members in developing “supportive environments in which gender may be expressed and respected,” per their website. Parents can visit their website and download PDF explainers such as, “Frequently Asked Questions for Youth,” “Frequently Asked Questions for Supportive Adults,” “Learning the Lingo,” and “Being an Effective Advocate For Your Child.”
This nonprofit organization is “committed to the premise that Gender Dysphoria is something a child can’t control and it is society that needs to change, not them. Families need to support their children and be encouraged to allow them to grow-up free of gender roles,” per their website. Their website is an incredible one-stop shop for lists of informative blogs, books, conferences, camps and conferences families can attend, and access to legal services.
Sex Positive Families “provides parents and caring adults with the education, resources, and support to raise sexually healthy children using a shame-free, comprehensive, and pleasure-positive approach,” as stated on their website. The organization offers parents with a slew of resources, including a sex-positive reading list, a podcast, and a number of how-to guides that can help parents talk to their children about anything, from porn to consent, bodily autonomy, and queer identities.
Whether it’s discussing birth control options, safe sex practices, or abortion, Planned Parenthood is a wonderful resource for parents seeking to talk to their children on a wide variety of gender- and sexuality-related topics. Some of their resources include “How do I talk to my preschooler about identity?” and information on safe relationships and personal identity.