Gender-Nonconforming & Questioning Kids

Parent Q&A

overnight camp that's comfortable for nonbinary kids? Feb 13, 2021 (4 responses below)
Teen searching web about breast binding Dec 10, 2020 (6 responses below)
Non-binary kiddo entering middle school Dec 5, 2020 (4 responses below)
YA misinformed and fast tracked on hormones Oct 1, 2020 (13 responses below)
Advice re non-binary teen Mar 16, 2020 (10 responses below)
Any experience with HRT for trans teen? Aug 21, 2019 (3 responses below)
Camp or social group for trans/gender non-conforming child Mar 18, 2019 (5 responses below)
Seeking a Therapist for Gender Questioning 7YO Jun 27, 2018 (8 responses below)
Teen son has told me he is asexual Mar 23, 2018 (3 responses below)
  • Hi - My 13 year old would like to go to an overnight camp this summer. They're interested in City of Berkeley Echo Lake camp and are open to others. Does anyone have experience sending a nonbinary kid to overnight camp? Most places have only girls/boys cabins, but say they're welcoming of all kids. I'm wondering where kids have felt safe/accepted? My kid loves typical camp activities - swimming, campfire, crafts, hikes etc - along with music and drama - in case that helps. Thank you!

    Hello,

    If your child would like a specifically trans/non-binary kids' camp, just in case you don't know about it, Camp Aranu'Tiq https://www.camparanutiq.org/camp-news/ is a camp in New Hampshire specifically for non-binary and trans kids up to age 13. Perhaps they would be a good resource to find other similar or inclusive camps.

    More locally, Camp Tawonga is leading the way on this type of inclusion.  They have an all-gender cabin in at least one of their sessions.  It is a Jewish camp, but non-Jews are welcome and Jewish religion is not intense or expected (many of the Jewish kids are secular). My kids have gone there for years and it's a truly wonderful camp, extremely well-run, very fun, and holds the kids very well.  Their COVID practices sound very good too. They may be filled up for this summer, but perhaps they could recommend other camps that do well with this.  They may have room specifically in the all-gender cabin, so I would call their phone number to find out.  (Also feel free to ask the moderator to contact me about this camp.)

    I've heard that Trackers is welcoming to non-binary kids, but I've just heard this second-hand.

    Best of luck for a safe and affirming summer for your kid!

    You may want to check out the gender neutral cabin at Camp Tawonga. My kids have had wonderful experiences at Tawonga. 
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/summer-camp-gender-transgender.html 

    https://www.campwinnarainbow.org/

    Our kid was/is non-conforming in so many ways, and Camp Winnarainbow (Mendocino County) was an amazing fit.  They do all the standard camp activities, but also, it's a circus and performing arts camp - so there's lots of creative expresssion.  ALSO, they have a fantastic swimming hole.  That picture is what sold our kid on going.

  • Teen searching web about breast binding

    (6 replies)

    I recently discovered that my 13yo has been searching the web about how to bind her breasts. Ever since covid shut everything down, she started to endure quite an upheaval in her mental health coupled with puberty hitting and her body changing very quickly. (I couldn't keep up with ensuring her clothes and undergarments fit her properly as her body changed so fast.) I also know that she's been watching tik-toks on the same topic. As background, she does suffer of anxiety and depression. I am struggling on how to navigate all of this aside from knowing that we need to find a new therapist for her. Anyone sharing experience on this topic and advice on navigation or resources will be appreciated. Thank you.

    Do you think this is a gender identity issue? If you think it might be, you might want to check out Transfamilies.org. This is an amazing group that is located in the Seattle area, but have on-line support groups. One of my children had some gender questions when he was younger and they were extremely helpful and supportive. I don't know if Aidan Key works directly with families anymore, but he is a truly wonderful person. Video Support Groups – TransFamilies. I highly recommend this group if you believe your child has any questions about their gender identity. 

    Can you broach the subject with her and offer to help her find information?  Breast binding is a sign that she is perhaps not happy with the body she was born with, and she could use an ally in expanding her world.  Listen, offer support and help in her explorations.  Having to hide important things from your parents is exhausting and potentially harmful.  If she knows you're ok with her online exploration and search to find the body and "self" that she feels good about, that's a HUGE burden off her shoulders.  Let her be who she really is.  This may be just curiosity; something she heard about and wanted to know more about, but it may be a first step in uncovering her true self.  

    A lot of people poorly informed people (including an online community) will push your daughter into transitioning. There are sites out there asking "are you trans?" if you just feel different (as if most teens don't feel different?)?  Well meaning counselors, schools, psychologists, doctors will tend to affirm your kid's self diagnosis. Many experts do not agree with this self-diagnosis route but are afraid to speak up (two world known ones have told me this).

    You will be told puberty blockers are safe and reversible, they are not.  See, e.g., here.  Hormones are needed by your kid's brain and bones to develop at this age, for instance, if you don't develop enough bone density in these years, you don't catch up later.  (This is your lifetime reserve until you die.) My understanding is it is like not getting proper nutrition during the period one would normally have a growth spurt, you can't just eat a lot later and get the growth spurt.  Also, the successful case by Keira Bell in the UK brought to light the fact that 44 of the 45 kids on puberty blockers in their study went on to cross sex hormones. 

    Two good articles and one set of good documentaries:

    In my experience, UCSF is not slow or careful enough, others have similar experiences.

    There is a lot of disagreement online but the medical literature is pretty clear--no one knows enough right now to know what is appropriate to help these kids:

    Gender dysphoria in adolescence: current perspectives (Kaltiala-Heino et al, 2018) “virtually nothing is known regarding adolescent-onset GD, its progression and factors that influence the completion of the developmental tasks of adolescence among young people with GD and/or transgender identity.”  

    Gender dysphoria: scientific oversight falling between responsible institutions should worry us all (Byng and Bewley, 2019, full text), “[..]we have now moved from a small, uncontrolled study with unpromising, unpublished results to the scaled up commissioning by NHS England of interventions that are of unproven benefit.” 

    Challenges in Timing Puberty Suppression for Gender-Nonconforming Adolescents (deVries,2020), author of original “Dutch protocol”: “This raises the question whether the positive outcomes of early medical interventions also apply to adolescents who more recently present in overwhelming large numbers for transgender care, including those that come at an older age, possibly without a childhood history of GI. It also asks for caution because some case histories illustrate the complexities that may be associated with later-presenting transgender adolescents and describe that some eventually detransition."

    You can also check out this parent information page with lots of references.

  • Non-binary kiddo entering middle school

    (4 replies)

    my 10 yo has recently been quite adamant that they are not interested in being categorized by gender.  after learning together, they've decided that the term non-binary suits them just fine.   as they are entering middle school next fall and there are lots of open houses, we went to one of the all-girls school open house -- because in prior years we had discussed it as a possible middle school choice.  in retrospect it was not my best moment, as my kiddo chaffed every time they heard the school leaders talking about daughters, and girls.  schools that focus on gender tend to be, clearly, binary; however, schools that don't address either gender are also often reinforcing a patriarchal system.   it made me wonder whether there may be a better private or public choice for gnc or non-binary kids like them.  we live in oakland and would prefer to stay here for middle school.   any advice? 

    Hello, I have worked as a substitute in Berkeley Public Schools and BUSD seems truly committed to welcoming students of non-binary gender.  Many of the classes I have taught have a student or two who asks to be identified as a different gender than they were assigned at birth.  The teachers and admin in BUSD seem very supportive and welcoming.  The commitment to accepting all kinds of diversity in BUSD is heartening.  There is also a teacher at BHS who goes by Mx. rather than Ms. and uses they/them pronouns.

    First, congrats on getting this far and supporting your child in their gender experience.  I would recommend Park Day School, in Oakland.  My 2 kids, including my trans one, have attended from K through middle school.  Park Day has been on the cutting edge for close to 20 years for serving kids well when it comes to gender expression and gender diversity. When my son came out as trans during middle school, it was a non-event (no big deal).  There have been several non-binary or trans kids in our kids' classes and the teachers tended to know how to handle it, and the kids are awesome with it. The school overall has been going through some difficult transitions over the past several years, but the middle school has a truly fantastic new upper admin team, a fantastic staff, they're doing great with covid safety, and I think they are on the road to re-establishing their usual level of excellence. Feel free to get in touch with me if you'd like to talk further.

    Prospect Sierra.  My daughter graduated in 2016.  There were at that time all-gender bathrooms.  There was a lot of emotional/social teaching and support for all students.  I think PS is a school where teachers, staff, and students welcome and value non-binary people. 

  • YA misinformed and fast tracked on hormones

    (13 replies)

    Our adult teen recently told us he had dysphoria, on top of his other significant struggles.  We were relieved to hear he was going to talk with a therapist to help figure himself out, and started educating ourselves.  We learned that the number of people whose dysphoria becomes distressingly painful, in our son’s age group, is exploding(“ROGD” for some), and that for this group the necessity, effectiveness and safety of different possible treatments, hormones, for instance, is unknown.  It’s complicated, and often unclear what will help.  For hormones in particular, treatment guidelines advise that other issues should first be evaluated and/or managed, as studies show that many other issues (including his) can even cause dysphoria or make transitioning much more difficult.  It’s also sadly become political, to the point where studying or discussing people who  “detransition” is controversial. We found some helpful leads here, here, here, here (person who resigned from UK national gender clinic), here (research background list), here and at www.segm.org .

    In this information chaos, our son became convinced from being online that he should start hormones immediately, telling us hormones were the only way to feel better, so that he needed them as soon as possible (false), that risks are low (false, not much is known, they are used off label so drug companies cannot usually be held liable, and have dangerous side effects), that only 2.2% of people who transition regret it (irrelevant, from a study not about hormones).  When I asked a parent of a very happy trans young adult for advice, I was told these same untruths, plus lectured on how my son would commit suicide unless he got medication right away (also false, thankfully).  We also learned that people are told to immediately affirm someone who is questioning their own gender, as any exploration of gender identity is “conversion therapy.”  (There are issues with this claim!).

    What happened next shocked us--a psychologist quickly agreed to start him on medication, even saying, with no justification, that his other problems could perhaps improve with cross-sex hormones.   Our young adult believed the trained professional (which in a sane world would be the right thing to do).  So on top of everything else on his plate, he is now on dangerous medication with irreversible consequences.  It will throw a wrench (it produces a “second puberty”, what could go wrong?) into his already severely distressed system; he is young for his age and vulnerable.   

    I would like advice on how to help him get the support he needs, from us and elsewhere, including exploring his gender identity. We also can't figure out how to be there for him, especially while he does something we think is very dangerous and unwise.

    (If you want to attack me because I want my son to be supported, to have careful informed medical care and to be informed himself, please don’t bother.  And don't worry, we are of course using his preferred pronouns.  Thank you.)

    I'm experiencing a similar situation and feeling whiplashed between trying to be accepting and feeling very worried. Will my son turn out to be a happier man or will he regret giving up being a woman and continue to feel self-hatred and shame and also find being out in the world even harder? My kid also has many co-occurring mental health issues and is possibly on the spectrum. Most of the debate out there is very polarized and hard to navigate. I feel like the scientific research and the therapeutic interventions are at a very early stage and the whole thing also feels like a cultural moment with echo chamber like distortions. It's really tough and I have no answers but I empathize with you. Once our kids are young adults we have few alternatives besides support if we want to maintain our relationships with them. Cutting them off won't change their minds and will just mean we won't be able to stay connected. This is what I tell myself. I wish I had more wisdom to offer. Unfortunately, I think it will take 10 or 20 years before we really see the fallout from this moment. Please take good care of yourself. 

    You might want to check into Gender Diversity. http://www.genderdiversity.org/contact/ This group is in Seattle, but they have on-line support groups for all ages and also parents. When my son was younger, he questioned his gender identity and we received support from them. Aiden Key is an amazing person and a wealth of knowledge. If the support group isn't the right fit for you, I am sure they can recommend some resources in California.

    I've been thinking about this topic a LOT recently. I'm a middle-aged lesbian and noticed an uptick in butch women deciding to transition beginning in the late 90's. Now, 25 years later, it's my niece and my friends' daughters! I find it curious that while one nephew and a couple young men in my circle have come-out as bi-, pan- or gay.. none have transitioned. Our family went through many of the questions you raise when our family member transitioned. He'd just begun college, had experienced some recent trauma and had never expressed gender dysphoria to us. We, too, were dismayed by the speed of hormones and surgery. However, he's happier than I've ever seen him and that is wonderful to see. This is a very difficult topic to discuss and I appreciate the perspective in some of the links you included. Thank you and I wish you and your child the best.     

  • Advice re non-binary teen

    (10 replies)

    Hi,

    My assigned female at birth child has come out as non-binary and is insisting they want to be more masculine via non-reversible, medical interventions. This child never expressed gender confusion as a child or younger teen, however, they have had severe anxiety, depression, sensory issues, been bullied, had disordered eating and been in therapy from a very young age. They are also super smart, talented, and sensitive. Currently, they are seeing a DBT therapist and are on medication, but we parents are not seeing huge improvements in their mental health and are very concerned about their desire to alter their body so drastically and permanently. The current therapist doesn't have a lot of knowledge of gender issues and DBT doesn't really address the trauma from bullying. I want my child to be happy and love themself and if I truly believed medical interventions would do it, I think I would be supportive. I really don't think my feelings are coming from transphobia but from a deep sense that these interventions won't solve the problem and then my child may feel even worse. There is a lot of pressure to be accepting and that anything else is transphobia. Does anyone have advice for me? Has anyone been through this with their teen? Anyone been through this themself?  Is there a super-skilled therapist out there who could work with my complex child without buying into the narrative? Someone who could help them love themself and truly thrive? Thank you for your advice. 

    RE: Advice re non-binary teen ()

    If you are a Kaiser member, Oakland and SF have multi specialty transitions departments. They have therapists. Your teen may need some therapy and to try hormone blockers if they have not completed puberty. That will give them time to delve into these issues before moving forward irreversibly. 

    Gender Spectrum is also a good online resource. It's complicated. Your teen needs to know they are loved and accepted even if they grow in unanticipated directions.  " I think I would be supportive." doesn't cut it. Others are bullying, you need to be a safe haven. Hugs. 

    RE: Advice re non-binary teen ()

    Hi, 

    I highly suggest a therapist with knowledge in the subject, but can’t recommend one. HOWEVER, I also recommend your child be evaluated for OCD. My child had similar issues and it turned out that this was a sort of compulsion. They felt something bad might happen to them if they expressed themselves as their birth gender so was doing various things not to. Also DBT alone would not help with OCD, so a correct diagnosis is really important. 

    RE: Advice re non-binary teen ()

    First of all, I can tell you are a loving involved parent trying to do your best, so hang in there. I'm sorry that I don't have a referral but I do agree that a good therapist who specializes in trans youth will be your best option, and I hope you will find one very soon. You don't mention your child's age - 13 looks very different from 17 in many ways. My dear friend went through a slightly similar experience, but her son (born a girl) identified as a boy since he could talk. As he transitioned in high school and went through treatments she supported some hormone therapy, which was reversible, but stopped short of surgery until their child was a legal adult. If it were me, I would definitely go the talk therapy route with a specialist before pursuing any medical interventions - could you come to some sort of agreement with your teen that following that route, if at the end (set amount of time) they still feel that makes sense for them that you will, in conjunction with them and their pediatrician/doctor, discuss what can be done? Whatever happens I wish you the very best!

  • Any experience with HRT for trans teen?

    (3 replies)

    My nonbinary trans teen is going to start HRT soon. Any experience with this? Tell me your stories. Mood swings? other issues?

    My teen has been on HRT for perhaps two years. I don't think the moods are any different for him than if he was experiencing the other hormone his body would have produced naturally. Best of luck.

     I provide gender affirming hormone therapy for teens, and most teens are very satisfied with it.  I haven’t had to take anyone off or even lower their dose because of mood issues.   Thank you for supporting your kid! 

    My born female child went on HRT (testosterone) at 15/16 and did experience mood swings but I'm not sure if that was actually related to the HRT or not. 

    I'm responding to tell you that he/she decided to stop the HRT around 8 months ago after around 2 years of taking it.

    He/she has recently expressed a desire to be a girl again. (with absolutely no pushing from parents)

    At 17 he wanted top surgery and I considered it because of all the persuasions of many people including doctors, psychiatrists and therapists.  Thank God that my insurance would not cover it until he was 18.  And thank God he never ended up pushing for it when he turned 18.

    Please be aware that kids change their minds.

  • I am looking for a camp or social group for an elementary school child who is gender non-conforming. The idea would be to give them an opportunity to be around and connect with other kids who are also in a similar boat and get positive social support in a nurturing environment. Does anyone know of any resources?

    I realize this may not be exactly what you have in mind, but my non binary teenager and several of their trans/non binary friends have been working at Camp Jack Hazard for the last few summers and will all be there again this year. CJH has a warm, supportive environment with traditional camp activities, including a backpacking trip in each camp session. I believe several trans kids attended last summer, and I know that the whole camp staff will welcome and nurture your child.  I think it's worth checking out.  Best of luck. 

    Hi! For the past three years, there was an East Bay summer camp called Rainbow Day Camp specifically for transgender and gender-fluid/creative/diverse kids. The leadership group is reforming this year under the name Camp Indigo. The only info I have for it is a GoFundMe fundraiser (message me for the link or google it). Their email is thecampindigo [at] gmail.com and I imagine you can get on an email newsletter list.

    While I don't have direct experience with their camp, a good friend has sent her children there all three years and has nothing but amazing things to say about the program.

    Also, there's a terrific local non-profit organization called Our Family Coalition that provides supportive activities for queer families. It's mostly geared toward queer parents, but you can sometimes find events for children who are gender non-conforming. Their website is worth checking out.

    Best wishes for a great summer!

    [Editor Note] This camp has now closed per their facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/enGendernow/

    Bay Area rainbow day camp - we’ve only had good experiences. I’m sure they can lead you to more connections too. 

  • My 7-year old daughter wants to be a boy. She dresses like a boy and recently we cut her hair off. I want to support her on this journey and my husband and I, and my daughter all need professional help. She has extreme rage and is very confused. We are going through all the emotions and feel unsure of how to best support her, and ourselves.

    Any family therapists or play based therapists with expertise in gender issues would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you.

    An organization called Gender Spectrum has a monthly support group for parents and other caregivers of gender-expansive children. You will find a great community there who can help you on your journey and give you therapist leads. More info here: https://www.genderspectrum.org/we-can-help/support-groups/

    We have one of the country's experts on transgender children right here in Oakland. Diane Ehrensaft (510) 547-4147. She wrote the book "The Gender Creative Child." 

    Gender Spectrum is having their big annual conference this coming weekend 7/7-8. You might want to go with your child. Also, Diane Ehrensaft, PhD in Oakland is a developmental psychologist who specializes in this area. If she doesn’t have openings, she may have referrals. There is a local camp for kids called Kickin’ It. 

  • Teen son has told me he is asexual

    (3 replies)

    So, my teen son told me yesterday that he is asexual. I'm afraid I didn't handle it that great, mostly at first I just said, okay. I mean, I had thought about what I would say to my child if they came out as gay/transgender/whatever but this had never occurred to me. The next day I sat down and told him I was surprised and didn't know much about it but support him completely. So now, how do I do that? I have been reading some websites and am trying to figure out what to say/not say but am hoping other parents have advice or recommendations on how to support him, especially so he knows I am not trying to "fix" him. He has probably done some research but I assume there are teen groups he can find? Or.... anything else anyone can tell me would be great.

    It sounds like you handled it well. Sometimes all that a parent can do is say, "Okay. I love you". I was asexual for about a year when I was 17. There are many phases we go through. Adolescence is marked by feeling new things, trying on feelings and identities like sweaters to see what sticks. Impermanence and change are never more apparent than in adolescence. I have had to learn to not have something to say about every girlfriend my son has, because that label is used frequently and often just describes a flirtation. Things change every day, his moods, his likes.....everything except for the fact that he's a great guy with a good heart. You can ask him if he'd like some support group, but chances are he doesn't need anything from you except calm acceptance and love.

    I agree with the previous response -- I think you handled it well! And I'm not sure there's anything you have to "do" -- since it's not a problem -- but continue to be there for him and listen when he tells you what he needs. Especially for teens, asexuality can be seen as counter-cultural, but there are many, many people who lead single, celibate, happy and fulfilled lives.

    I imagine this is hard for you to hear- but at this age I would not take his proclamation too seriously. Just let him know that the teen years and beyond are times of trying on identities and many hats and encourage him to keep exploring. Try not to react with shock even if you are shocked. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions  

 


Looking for therapist - son is questioning gender identity

March 2016

My son has been questioning his gender identity. We are looking for a therapsit for him - I hope to find someone that is knowledgeable and supportive of this field. There are a few that I've seen on-line, but I'd appreciate any direct experience or insight from other parents that have had this issue. Please, no need to comment if you do not have insight from direct experience. I thank you for your kind understanding---


I highly recommend Dr. Karisa Barrow, a clinical psychologist who practices near Kaiser's Oakland campus. My daughter started seeing Karisa during her senior year of high school and continues to FaceTime with her from college. Gender identity is not one of my daughter's issues, but it is a big part of Karisa's practice. Karisa is really smart, with a wry sense of humor that my daughter appreciates. She genuinely likes teens and is very compassionate about their unfolding sense of identity. This is an excerpt from her web page:

''Dr. Karisa Barrow, a licensed clinical psychologist, is the founder and clinical director of inMind, which provides psychotherapy, assessment, and consultation for adults and children in the Bay Area and surrounding communities. Dr. Barrow also is an adjunct faculty member at The Wright Institute and Argosy University and is in private practice in Oakland and San Francisco, where she specializes in working with gender nonconforming, transgender, and GLBQ adults, children, and their families. Dr. Barrow provides psychoeducation and consultation to lay and professional audiences about the mental health needs for gender nonconforming and transgender children. She authored Psychotherapy with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients, which was published in the July 2014 issue of psychotherapy.net. ...

''She was trained psychoanalytically with concentrated interests in contemporary psychoanalytic, developmental, feminist, and queer theory. She specializes in working with gender and sexual minorities, bereavement, as well as foster care and adopted children. She also conducted research on and developed a training manual for the psychoanalytically inclined practitioner working with gender-variant and transgender men.''

Her website is at: http://www.youareinmind.com/karisa-barrow-psyd/ Y It means so much to me that someone like Karisa has her eyes on my daughter. Best wishes! A grateful mom


https://www.genderspectrum.org/ I want to share the community/website of gender spectrum which is a great resource on this question anon


Diane Ehrensaft is an amazing therapist who specializes in youth and gender identity. She is the author of Gender Born, Gender Made and has a wealth of experience; she is currently the director of mental health at the UCSF Benioff Children & Adolescent Gender Center Clinic and also has a private practice in Oakland. She's been a blessing to our family. http://www.dianeehrensaft.com/ Best wishes to you and your son. Oxford's Mom


Dr. Herbert Schreier, chief of psychiatry at Children's Hospital Oakland, is an expert on gender identity issues in children and adolescents. He was my nephew's psychiatrist, as well as my grandchild's, and I have participated in a number of therapy sessions in his office. He is a kind and wise man. http://www.childrenshospitaloakland.org/main/psychiatry-herbert-schreier-md.aspx ~good luck to you and your child in their journey


I'd like to recommend Michelle Jurkiewicz, PhD, who practices in Berkeley. You can find her on myberkeleytherapist.com. I would also strongly recommend connecting with the group Gender Spectrum, and attending their parent support group, if you haven't already. Alma


Social/Support Groups for Gender-Expansive Pre-Teen

Sept 2015

My 10-year-old daughter is gender-expansive and is beginning to explore questions about her sexuality and ''who she is.'' While she attends a relatively supportive school and works with a therapist who specializes in kids and gender identity, she is starting to suffer feelings of isolation and the sense that ''there is no one like me.'' She has always been quite comfortable with who she is and hasn't felt any pressure or inclination to ''choose'' whether to be a boy or a girl, but she's now starting to feel pressure from peers who have a very binary way of viewing gender. To paraphrase her feelings, it's really hard to find kids who even understand the concept of the ''they'' pronoun, let alone feel comfortable using it. I'd love for her to have opportunities to meet other kids and pre-teens who are gender expansive and develop friendships with kids who are non-binary. She is very self-reflective, precocious and open-minded and is looking for a community of like-minded kids. I realize that it may not be common for kids her age to articulate their preferences/needs or be comfortable expressing their non-binary identity, but I know there are other kids like her out there. Any suggestions for local groups/opportunities, either formal or informal?


You must join Gender Spectrum. They have a monthly bay area support group for gender-expansive kids. https://www.genderspectrum.org/we-can-help/support-groups/ Your kid will feel loved, respected and friended. xoxo


I can't respond to your question directly, but King Middle School GSA (Berkeley) does peer education in the Berkeley public schools. Usually to 5th grade classes, but they spoke to one 4th grade class last year. They cover the gender spectrum in their talks and maybe doing so in your daughter's class would at least educate her peers and allow a dialog to start. Francesca


Middle School Accommodations for Gender Non Conforming Child?

June 2011

Does anyone know if a gender non-conforming child is eligible for a 504 plan in the public schools? My child has not had many issues up to this point that can't be resolved by talking with teachers, but he will soon enter middle school and I'm concerned about gym classes and bathroom access.

I'm wondering if a 504 plan will help in putting in place gender neutral spaces for him to change and use the bathroom. I will talk with administration at the schools before he enters, but I'd like to have something solid to fall back on if I don't feel he will be properly accommodated to feel safe. Concerned Mom


Have you tried speaking to people at Gender Spectrum? http://www.genderspectrum.org/ My transboy is making the big switch next fall, and we were thinking of King Middle School, but chickened out and are going private. GS had a lot of tips and can help you talk to administrators. My child's therapist was also going to help write up a plan for school as well. Good luck--I know this is hard! You're not alone!


You might ask this question to Sarah Hoffman, a writer and blogger who is raising a gender non-conforming child. She's been blogging recently about getting her son's school and the other kids families to be fully supportive in response to bullying that has intensified in 3rd grade. http://www.sarahhoffmanwriter.com/ On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=680476871#!/profile.php?id=100000092585350=wall

Albany Dad


Without knowing the specifics, I feel it is likely that your child would qualify for a 504 plan and it would cover your child's needs. If he is entering middle school this fall, I reccommend contacting the principal in early August to set up an intial meeting. This will give time to problem solve any potential issues or address any scheduling changes (for example, maybe it is possible to have PE last period and he can change in the office bathroom then go home in his PE clothes, eliminating one change out at school or vice versa with first period). If your child will still be in elementary school this coming year, then I would talk with your current administrator about setting up a 504 in the fall, in preparation for transitioning to middle school where the typical set up is to have more teachers. The 504 will allow greater communication so everyone of those teachers (6+!) are on the same page. Middle School Teacher


I would like to suggest that ''concerned mom'' contact Gender Spectrum at (510) 567-3977 or info [at] genderspectrum.org, as they support families with gender non-conforming kids in their schools as part of their work! Pam W


In order for there to be a 504 plan, your child would have to have a documented disability; I think that being diagnosed with gender identity disorder would qualify the child. However, I'm not sure how you feel about this diagnosis (some parents feel it is useful for their gender-nonconforming kids, others find it problematic).

The best plan of action probably depends a lot on the climate of the particular school, so you'd do well to find out more about it. Do you know other gender non-conforming kids who go there or have gone there? You could ask about the specific school in one of the other BPN newsletters. And, as you said, you should contact the administration ASAP to talk about your child's needs. If the school is reasonably open to working with you, I would avoid a 504 plan. Administrators and teachers tend to view 504 plans as a way for pushy parents to get extra privileges for their kids. (Not saying that's true, just that it's often a perception among teachers/ school staff!) So it probably won't make staff *want* to help your child beyond the bare minimum. I'd only go this route if the school refuses to help voluntarily.

You may already know these resources, but I'll suggest them just in case. Gender Spectrum can probably be of help in this area, and I recommend contacting them to ask for their advice and any resources they have: http://www.genderspectrum.org/

And if you need a diagnosis and are looking for a therapist, Diane Ehrensaft is a local therapist who works a lot with gender non-conforming kids (and also has a referral network of other gender-accepting therapists with expertise in this area, if she doesn't have space or you prefer someone different). http://www.dianeehrensaft.com/

Hope your child gets all the support they need!


Therapist for a Gender Variant Child

Sept 2010

I am looking for a good therapist to work with our young child who is expressing that he feels like he is really a girl. Does anyone know of a therapist who is experienced with gender variant or gender non-conforming or transgender children and with working with their parents? We would like to find someone who will not judge us or our child or try to ''fix'' or change our child's gender expression, but rather help us all come to terms with his true gender identity. Please include whether you know the therapist's attitude first hand.


Contact Stephanie Brill at Gender Spectrum - www.genderspectrum.org. They're based in Orinda and Stephanie runs a group for gender variant and transgender children at Children's Hospital Oakland. Check out their website; I'll think you will find them an incredible resource for your child and family, and that they get it. anon


Dr. Diane Ehrensaft is an experienced child psychologist who specializes in, among other things, working with gender variant children and their parents. Her phone number is 510 547-4147. Her practice is in Oakland near Grand Ave. All the best to you, Debra


Hi, I don't have a first hand recommendation for you, but Michael Krasny, the host of Forum,a morning radio show on KQED, one of the local NPR stations, had a show on this very topic just a couple weeks ago. I'm sure you could look it up on their website. They interviewed several therapists, as well as two moms who have been through the experience. Both had boys who are now girls. There are apparently several support groups in the area, which they also referenced on the show. Good luck! You're living in the best place on Earth for this type of situation. --AB AB


There is a therapist at Children's Hospital Oakland named HERBERT A. SCHREIER, MD who is well known for his expertise and open mindedness regarding gender variant children. Also, he organizes a parent support group at CHO on Thursday (double check that) nights for those parents with children in many different phases of gender identity. I can speak to his attitude on this subject because I have worked at CHO for many years. However, I have never heard feedback from parents or patients regarding their experiences with Dr. Schreier. His office phone: (510) 428-3570 You sound like very supportive parents. hope this helps


Call Diane Ehrensaft, PhD. Her office is in Oakland by Lake Merritt. One of her specialties is working with families with gender variant children. You can check out her website. She is very well respected in the community. susan


Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D. is a leading expert in the field. She has a ton of experience, is extremely warm and down to earth and non-judgmental. You won't really find anyone with her depth of knowledge and experience in the Bay Area. Her office is near Lake Merritt. Her number is 547-4147. good luck!


My partner is transgender and we are involved with the trangender community here. I know of two resources for you. Phyllis Rothblatt is a local therapist who works with families and children. She wrote a wonderful book called ''All I want to be is me'' about gender variant kids. I have spoken to her a few times and she definitely understands the issues your child is facing. Her number is 510-339-3563. The second resource is Gender Spectrum. http://genderspectrum.org/ They just recently finished a conference here in Berkeley. We went to the one for adults in Seattle last year. This is a fantastic organization that gives support to families and children in many areas like school, therapy and transitioning. Good luck to you and your child. Let's Rethink the Binary


Dr. Herbert schreier at dept of psychiatry at childrens hosp oakland is wonderful and works with and has presented on gender variant kids good luck


It sounds like you want your son to be true to himself, and you want to know the best way to support him. If you don't know about Gender Spectrum, check out this website: http://genderspectrum.org/. They are in the Bay Area and host monthly parent support meetings at Oakland Children's Hospital. You will find lots of parents with boys who want to be girls (and visa versa). It's so much easier when you can hear how other parents have navigated the same waters (finding supportive pre/elementary schools, changing names/pronouns, telling family/friends/neighbors, what to tell Grandpa when his only grandson is always wearing a dress, finding supportive pediatricians, how not to be too hard on yourselves, etc.,). You don't mention your son's age, but if he's under 5, it's probably too early for therapy for him (unless he's really unhappy). In our case, we just thought we had an uber tomboy (girl who wanted everything boy: haircut, male characters for Halloween, and boy clothes down to the jockey briefs). When our 9 year old daughter finally told us in WORDS that she'd been wanting to be a boy for three years, we took it seriously. We attended the support group and decided to have a private consult with one of the Gender Spectrum directors, Stephanie Brill (Orinda, 925-254-3907). She gave us lots of advice, reassurance, and recommendations for therapists, pediatricians, and endocrinologists. We decided not to make a big deal out of it (and stop asking our daughter if she thought she was really a boy on the inside!!!) and to wait a year before taking any next steps. After a year, she was starting to hit puberty and still wanted to be a boy. We realized it was time to find someone to help our child figure out who s/he was. She is seeing Dr. Diane Ehrensaft in Oakland (http://www.dianeehrensaft.com/). Diane is expensive ($200/hour), but she's the top in the field of gender variant kids, and fantastic! In the end, we decided to make the financial commitment (Diane lowered her fees a bit as we'd recently had a bad financial blow)--it seemed like the biggest and most important thing we could do as parents for our child (forget about the college fund!!!). Diane is really the child's advocate and has no hidden agendas. It's been well worth the investment. I know this information is more than you asked for, but I've spent many years worrying, freaking, and being in fear for what lay ahead for my child. It made me feel so much better hearing stories from other parents, and having professionals around to help me help my child. Good luck! Mom of a GV child


There's a therapist in Oakland who has tremendous experience with this issue: Reyna Cowan 601-0232 harriet


I would highly recommend Laura Goldberger. She was recommended to us as specializing in this area. We worked with her when we were struggling with how to understand our son's non-conforming gender identity. We felt completely understood and supported, and Laura helped us figure out how to parent in a way that supported our son's healthy development and how to deal with his school and other tricky situations. Her phone number is (510) 665-7755 and her web address is: http://lauragoldberger.com/index.html Jean


10-year-old girl's gender identity issues

Aug 2008

My 10-year-old niece confided in me the other night that in her dreams, she is always a boy and that she's been having these dreams for as long as she can remember. She is, for lack of a better term, a ''tomboy.'' She dresses in ''boy'' clothes and has at times (in the guise of joking around) asked people to address her by a boy name. Her best friends are boys and she seems more at ease playing with the boys than girls. Over the years, she has made attempts to act like what in her mind, is a typical ''girl'' (i.e. talking about crushes on the Jonas Brothers or wearing dresses.) Her efforts seem contrived somehow and never seem to stick. She's a funny, talented, smart little girl, but she is clearly struggling with this. Her parents are aware of what's going on and would do anything to support her, but no one really know how. Have others come across this in their children? Should we just keep quiet and simply listen, or is there something we should be doing or saying to help? Any suggestions or recommendations would be appreciated. Thanks. anon


A dear friend of mine in LA has a ''daughter'' who is now her son. Youth gender identy happens in a small percentage of children. There was a Barbara Walters show on gender identity about a year ago. You can see it on Youtube. It's in 4 segments. My friends are in it. Their now son, is Jeremy (they're in the last piece, I think). I'd be happy to put you and your niece's family in touch with my friend. They've been thru it, have become advocates for their son, who is going off to college this year and could be a world of info and support. Please contact me if you want her e-mail. Let your niece's family know they are not alone. This isn't a ''phase'' and the sooner recognized, the better for the child. June


there's a new book by Stephanie Brill called the Transgendered Child. It talks about how to support children who find themselves not fitting into our binary gender system. Stephanie also holds support groups at Children's Hospital for the parent's of transgendered children. best of luck


Every 10 year old girl has gender identity issues, but not all know or understand gender. It sounds like this particular girl is learning the unfortunate truth about gender stereotypes. She has an idea of what a ''boy'' is and should be and what a ''girl'' is and should be. She probably feels that according to what she loves to do, she would be labeled a boy, i.e. more into sports, maybe not as into barbies or tea parties or things her girl- friends are into. I think it's great that more girls have this ''tomboyish'' side to them and don't think there's a need to worry about it. She will grow up to realize that she doesn't need to have all of the stereotypically feminine attributes to be a happy, well liked, biological girl. My one suggestion would be to avoid labeling her normal ideas as a ''gender battle'' or anything of that nature. I think it would much more confusing for her if she had to analyze these issues at such a young age. If she's a normal happy child, I don't see any reason for therapy or ''intervention''. Just let it be! Good luck! anon


It sounds like you have not chastised her and tried to force her to conform. This is good. I just have questions to help you understand the choices that boys and girls are given in this society from birth... Imagine how difficult it is to walk into a store and there is the boy stuff and the girl stuff. Both come with different colors and different trademarks. How many ''Cars'' stuff have you seen with the girls stuff? How many ''Dora'' stuff have you seen with the boys stuff? How often have you seen the bolder/ deeper colors and brown, black, navy blue and brown with no other color in the girls stuff? How about the boys- do they get bright, sparkly, and the other colors of the spectrum? How about the way the boys are treated such as with the often heard remark, ''boys will be boys.'' How often are boys told to be gentle, have a doll, or told that it is OK to cry? Girls are expected to be gentle, have a doll, and cry when life is tough. How about as grown ups. Will Spike TV ever play some movie about standing up against a rapist or something that you will find on Lifetime for Women? Will Lifetime ever play what one would see on Spike TV, such as Star Trek, Bond movies, sports or stupid sports/ acts with silly commentary? I saw as a child that boys seem to be treated better if not at least different. When one does not fit into the stereotype of what society says is what is acceptable what can one do? I remember when I came out that I felt that I was expected to be oh so butch. The reality is that there are many different gender identities and people who do not fit into those identities. Listen to her, help her see what are stereotypes and what is reality. Introduce her to men and women who do not fit the stereotype and predominate binary gender identity. Help her see that there are some of us in this world who don't fit into the the binary gender identity (no matter what one's sexual orientation) and that some of us fall along the great spectrum of gender expression (straight or gay). A more butch and some femme and very happy Woman


how wonderful that this child has such loving supportive adults in her/his life. you could read and recommend the new book 'the transgender child, a handbook for parents and professionals' by stephanie brill and rachel pepper. i haven't read the whole book yet, but have read excerpts and reviews, and it seems excellent. good luck!


Don't ignore her. It sounds like she is looking for some help to understand what is going on. I'm sure there are resources in Berkeley or San Francisco for queer youth. It is nice to know you are not alone at this tender age. anon