Gender-Nonconforming & Questioning Kids

Parent Q&A

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  • We are considering moving from Berkeley schools to private middle (and eventually high school) in part for academic reasons, and also because we think our kids would do better in a smaller school environment.  We have a transgender child, and we would really appreciate hearing about experiences and perspectives from families with transgender or gender diverse kids.  We would like to find a middle school that continues to high school, so we are considering Bentley and Head Royce, and also considering middle schools that don't have a high school, like Park Day, Black Pine Circle, and Prospect Sierra, and also interested in other recommendations.  Thanks in advance for perspectives.

    Hello! I just wanted to say you might also look into Berkeley Independent Study. My two sons - 10th and 12th grade now, but started in 6th grade here- have had a very good experience in terms of support. They are not transgender/ gender diverse themselves but have had classmates that are and the community is very welcoming, a diverse and supportive staff and a lot of chances to customize projects and studies that interest your child.  Also, the schedule is more  flexible, so if your child wants to do extra curricular activities, they have more time in the day to focus on their passion that might be outside of school. It goes all the way through highschool, and they can still join some electives at the Berkeley middle schools or  Berkeley High if they want, such as Music or sports! 

    My child is in 6th grade at Park Day and is nonbinary. We've had a wonderful experience in terms of gender identity at this school. The bathrooms are all gender neutral so no hard choices need to be made. The staff go through extensive training with Gender Spectrum. And the middle school GSA (gender sexuality alliance) is a really supportive group. The parent community and kids have also been welcoming and supportive. Even the sex ed program for middle school was affirming of the full gender and sexuality spectrum. They brought in an outside expert to run the sex ed program at middle school. 

    If you want a middle school that supports transgender/gender diverse kids I honestly think you can't do better than Park Day. I've got a gender diverse kid at PDS and it's been a great experience for them. They started at PDS part way through elementary school because we were looking for a smaller, more supportive environment than they were getting at a charter school in Oakland. The teachers, staff, other kids and families are very well versed in gender diversity issues and thoughtful about everything from the curriculum (super important for sex ed in middle school!), school layout (PDS has had gender neutral bathrooms from before we joined) to extracurricular clubs for both kids (the Gender Sexuality Alliance is a very popular middle school group that has many members spanning 6-8th grade that meets on campus as well as outside of school) and parents (the Gender Justice Alliance is part parent-support group/part broader social justice group for the school). 

    I wanted my kid to actively research middle schools because they didn't want to do that when we moved to PDS. They were pretty turned off by some of the other schools practices about locker rooms/changing for PE class and bathrooms in general. At best some schools have a completely separate bathroom which felt very isolating to my kid. I should note this was a couple of years ago so I have no idea what the bathroom situation is like but it made the choice to stay at PDS very easy for my particular kid. 

    FWIW my kid identifies as non-binary but their friend group includes kids that identify as non-binary, trans, asexual-aromatic, gay, lesbian, straight and gender fluid. 

    I should also add that some of the transgender kids choose not to join the GSA because they just want to be seen as their gender but really appreciate the fact there are other gender diverse kids at PDS and the care and knowledge of all the staff. Please reach out if you have specific questions about PDS or want to talk offline. 

    I have a transgender child at a private East Bay high school, and our experience is that transgender and gender diverse kids are common enough at every single East Bay school that truly, any choice would be fine. It's very, very likely that your child will not be the only gender diverse kid in their class wherever they go. My kid was extremely supported at his private middle school when he transitioned, and when we were searching for private high schools we found a welcoming environment, all-gender restrooms, and active LGBTQ+ alliance groups everywhere we looked. The only high schools we did not consider were parochial, mostly due to dress codes that would have been uncomfortable for him. My kid is now thriving in high school and many of his friends are gender diverse. 

    We moved to the East Bay last summer and chose Park Day for our two children, currently in 5th and 7th grades. Our kids have quickly adjusted to their new school and have thrived in the smaller, more nurturing environment Park Day provides.   Our 7th grader identifies as non-binary.  The faculty and staff, the other parents, and the students have all been supportive and welcoming.  There are a good number of LGBTQ+ students, families and staff at Park Day, to the point that gender-fluidity is just part of the fabric of the school rather that being something remarkable or unusual. 

    I would say that Bentley is behind other schools in terms of transgender support. While there are transgender, non-binary, and other gender diverse students the school has dragged its feet on providing gender-neutral restrooms. The high school is about to install one gender-neutral restroom and the K-8 campus has none. Students can use preferred names and pronouns that are other than their legal ones and there is a GSA at the Upper School but not at the K-8 school. Teachers and students are generally very accepting but I would not say gender diversity is celebrated the way it may be at other schools. My child struggled with being misgendered frequently by his teachers although that is likely an issue at other schools as well. Faculty do not receive training on working with gender diverse students. I can't speak to how it is handled at Head-Royce.

    Walden has been great for my transgender son. It's K-6.  The kids learn about gender diversity and the restrooms are gender neutral.  There's a lot of respect and it's so small.  It's in Berkeley on Dwight near MLK, and there are family from all over who commute there.  It is arts focused and the kids do 2 of Spanish/art/music/drama each day.  My son loves art and is mildly dyslexic so it's been great to have the arts and music to balance out the parts of school that are hard for him.  The Spanish teacher is from Chile and very kind.   Class size is small and because it does require an hour commitment from parents, it costs 10k less than other private schools.  The hours can be yardwork, cleaning, or helping out in music class, etc.  Check it out!

    My daughter is just finishing 8th grade at Park Day School (K-8).  A lot of of the students are gender non-binary and gender fluid, and from what I can see the school supports this as the norm, including all bathroom being all gender, language by teachers and students being up to date, etc.  If you contact PDS, I am sure they can connect you with some of the families who can give you more detail

  • Parents, our 12 yo just came out as trans/non-binary.  I'm looking to find a trans-literate pediatrician within the Kaiser system, or a recommendation for a Kaiser campus that has particularly fabulous resources for trans tweens.  

    Kaiser Oakland has the PROUD Clinic.  It is SO fab. Our kiddo came out as trans earlier this year. PROUD offers counseling, meds, group therapy, transition services and more. 
     

    and hey. Love y’all. It’s a road I definitely didn’t expect to be walking as a parent but here we are. Hugs. 

    I asked a doc friend in the Kaiser system, and this is what they said: “There is a multidisciplinary pediatric trans clinic in Oakland that is amazing. Kids need to reach out to pediatrician who then puts in a referral (econsult) to child psych. They then hook the kiddo up with a therapist who takes the family through their journey until ready for a medical intervention and then the can be seen in Oakland Proud clinic.”

  • Gender Affirming MD or Provider

    (3 replies)

     Does anyone have recommendations for a gender affirming therapist, clinic or provider for our teen?   The wait time for the Gender Clinic is many months long. Thank you! 

    Hi, you probably already know this, but there are gender clinics at both UCSF/UBCHO and down at Stanford. 

    There is also a brand new organization for parents of gender questioning kids called Genspect (genspect.org) which may be of interest. I know that I have had a VERY steep learning curve myself as the parent of a gender questioning teenager and have gradually evolved toward more of a gender-exploratory approach. 

    This is a challenging path for the whole family-- good luck. 

    Contact Logan Berrian at The Buncke Clinic in SF. 415-684-5206. He's the clinical director for their gender affirming surgery practice and knows everything.

    Children's hospital in Oakland has a gender clinic. Note this clinic just provided medical care. You need to find a therapist separately. There is a network of therapists that deal with gender issues and they can refer you if one is fully booked. I interviewed several before figuring out who to work with as a parent and learned a lot from all of them. I recommend seeing someone yourself or with your partner/ co-parent if you have one, to work through your own questions and concerns. My kid stayed with a therapist they were already seeing that has knowledge about gender issues. 

    Gender Spectrum has groups for parents and children as well as a wealth of information. 

    There's a lot to learn and gender identity brings up a lot of strong feelings for parents. 

    I wish you well. 

  • 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.

    Camp Tawonga has "all gender cabins" for certain sessions. It's a Jewish camp near Yosemite. My non-binary teen went there before there were all gender cabins and felt very safe and supported. Some staff is trans or non-binary.  

  • Teen searching web about breast binding

    (5 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.

    Deeply grateful for the responses so far on this question, and I want you to know we empathize. In the past few months we have been going through this discovery process with our 12 year old. Due to the pandemic, we have allowed her access to social media (YouTube, Instagram and texting/chatting).  She has found respite from loneliness in LGBTQ+ groups and has told us she is bi or gay, and then trans. We were taken by surprise on all the news and adjusted to the idea she is attracted to girls, but are pretty skeptical about her being trans.  

    We are reading a book called “Irreversible Damage” by Abigail Shrier. It’s very eye opening about what is a current phenomenon on the rise with girls. The book is written in a tone that feels harsh and there is some controversy around it.  But it echoes what we had been feeling, and offers some guidance to help the family navigate the situation.  
     

    This movement shares some qualities with cult membership, and we are quite concerned about the long term trajectory for her physical and emotional health.

    Please know that I respect there are many people who are genuinely trans. But I’m feeling like the pendulum is swinging too far toward accepting kids’ self diagnosis at this time.  

    Honestly you cannot know her motivation or thoughts if you dont ask! Saying she definitely needs therapy for this without knowing her basic mindset is problematic. She could be uncomfortable with her changing body as many girls are or she could be questioning her gender identity or she could have strong feeling about her gender identity. Please have a heart to heart in a kind and compassionate way and listen to what she has to say. Then you will have more information on how to provide her support.

  • 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. 

    I went through this exactly with my child, who is now in 7th grade. Looking back it would have been very rough for them to be at an all-girls school, and I'm glad they made it clear to me they didn't feel comfortable. In my experience, both public and private middle schools in the Bay Area are working hard to create communities that welcome kids of all gender orientations. And the kids are leading the way. My child goes to Black Pine Circle, which is terrific in this regard, but he also has non-binary and trans friends at other middle schools, public and private, who feel very comfortable being themselves. The culture has shifted light years from when I was in middle school.

  • 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.     

    You clearly think your adult child is making the wrong decision for their mental and physical health and are struggling with how to influence their decision. Welcome to a long line of parents who struggle with that issue—sometimes they are right and sometimes there are wrong but in either case, almost certainly, they have to decide whether forcing their will (which is ultimately never successful) is worth ruining their relationship with their child. As a queer adult parent of a queer identifying teen I will say a couple of things content wise. One, you can always certainly find studies and opinions that support your POV on this topic. It is a still evolving topic and per your point the jury is still out on some impacts of hormones on health. And should you choose to search and look for studies that exclusively support your son’s POV you would find those too. But it sounds like you are cherry picking to support your own proposition. What is clear from all research related to gender issues is that feeling loved and supported by friends, family and communities is a key contributor to happiness and mental health. And I can tell you that if you use the same attitude, language and approach with your adult son that you did in this post you will do more harm than hormones ever could. Your adult son is going to be able to make better choices if they feel supported and loved by you, and less dug in if they feel like they have to defend against you, both short and long term. They should have you as an ally not someone figuring out how to make them change their mind. 

    For better or for worse, here are my thoughts, as a doctor trained in family medicine who works in addiction medicine (& as a mom of a teen). One of the hardest parts of my job is speaking with parents about their distress, fear and concern about their children and the choices they are making.
    I’d like to share with you what I have learned, even though I recognize that the context is very different, and that you may have already taken these steps.
    first of all: make sure that you have a therapist for you who supports you, and your concerns. It sounds very distressing, and you are trying to protect your child as best you can. 
     

    It sounds like the horse is out of the barn regarding starting hormones, so I think that all you can do is

    1) listen again to what your child is telling you, with as much authentic curiosity as you can. When he stops, say “please tell me more“

    2) ask your child to hear you out, then express your concerns in “I” statements. Also tell him how you are feeling (“I am feeling that you are taking a risk” isn’t a feeling — “I am afraid for your health and well-being” is more like it)

    3) tell your child that whatever he chooses, you will support him emotionally. The last thing you want to do right now is alienate your child. 
     

    I wish you well, 

    Ava

    I just want to say I'm wishing you a positive outcome, for everyone - this sounds so hard, and I feel much compassion for you - it sounds to me like you are doing ALL of the right things. I'm sorry for your struggle. I hope you will hear from some good experienced parents who can help.

    Dear fellow parent of a gender non-conforming child,

    I can tell you are a caring and concerned parent. Because you say "adult teen" I assume your child is 18 or 19 and not at the age where puberty blockers—a low-risk, reversible treatment that can make a huge difference for giving younger trans kids some space to safely explore their gender identity—are the main treatment in question. Because you have obviously done a lot of research, you may have already come across this organization, but I cannot recommend highly enough Gender Spectrum https://genderspectrum.org/

    They are an organization that supports families with gender non-conforming children, and they run an amazing annual conference. It was cancelled last summer due to COVID but hopefully will be back in action in 2021. It is a national organization but we are lucky that the conference is in the Bay Area. I learned so much by getting to hear expert speakers and be with other families experiencing the joys and challenges we were facing.

    Best of luck to your child, and to you in learning how to be the best parent you can be to them.

    Original poster here, thank you all so much for these valuable viewpoints, advice and information.  This is very challenging!

    As far as POV, there are blogs and popular articles saying all sorts of things, I surely agree!  Thousands of people have stopped using hormones, many claiming they were misled and harmed, while thousands of others say hormones helped them.  

    In contrast, the studies don’t seem to contradict each other (aside from a few that have been corrected, e.g. the Fact-Checking of AAP Policy, text here).  For example, the studies agree that most kids who exhibit strong gender dysphoria before puberty stop being dysphoric, without medication or transitioning.  For these people, drugs are certainly not the only way to get better.  For people developing strong gender dysphoria in my son’s age group, studies agree not much is known about what helps.  My son is misinformed about facts.   No studies say/show what he says; that is, that the only way for people in his age group to heal from gender dysphoria is by taking medication.  None.  Some actually say that people like him should do other specific steps first.  He is mistaken in facts, not points of view. He has made a serious medical decision based on misinformation.  It is hard to figure out how to be an ally.

    We thought puberty blockers might help, but then learned the blocked hormones play a big role in brain development at puberty.  I wish the companies would do studies to put these on label with the FDA. 

    There is truly a lot of misinformation out there and the vast majority is being spread by those opposed to lgbtq+ identities, most especially these days trans folks. There is irrefutable evidence that lack of support by parents and loved ones is a huge stressor and yes that trans young people especially without family support have hugely increased rates of suicidal ideation and death. Trying to find evidence to support your view is not in the best interest of your child who I must point out is a legal adult. Hormones are not surgical and are primarily reversible at that age. Furthermore it’s his body and his choice regardless of how you feel about it. This is a truth of being a parent. Please take the time to speak with and learn from the trans community. The Pacific Center in Berkeley is a wonderful resource. I truly hope you show your son you love him not in spite of his trans identity but fully and without reservation and find your own peace. No therapist would prescribe hormones without good evidence that they are needed.

    Sorry for the late reply, just want to say how much I empathize with your post. After a lifetime of identifying strongly with his assigned-at-birth gender, our child transitioned suddenly as a teen. He has mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. We've been supportive from day 1, and immediately switched to his new name and pronouns. He hopes to medically transition when he is older. It's been our private opinion -- never expressed to our child -- that he was suffering due to his mental health issues, and saw transitioning as an answer that would fix everything. I hate to say, but we're doubtful that he would have arrived at this solution without social media and peer influence. Unfortunately, his transition has only intensified his mental health struggles. It's hard to tell whether the transition has been the cause, or whether his mental health would have been even worse otherwise. (Our child has been seeing a therapist throughout.) This has been unbelievably hard for us. Parents are told that anything other than total affirmation may result in suicide. Within days of our child's announcement, we had other parents telling us we should ask for hormone therapy right away, while we were still trying to wrap our heads around the whole thing. I want to be my child's strongest ally, and I hope that is what he sees every day, but I am also a parent with very real worries and fears.  Finding unbiased studies or articles on this topic has been incredibly challenging. (That Atlantic article has been shown as problematic, for example.) Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria, as a term, is also problematic -- yet the term describes our experience. Articles on ROGD are often promoted by TERF groups and people like J.K. Rowling, who believe that transgender men are not men. That could not be further from our beliefs -- we're appalled by JKR's recent statements and we're passionate supporters of transgender rights. But it's very hard to research these issues without walking into a minefield. (Even now as I write this response I'm worrying that I have accidentally said something offensive or inflammatory.) I wish I had advice -- just lots of sympathy and understanding.  Right now, we're just focusing on our child's mental health. We only want him to be happy and healthy, and we'll continue to do whatever it takes to make that happen. But it feels like this is uncharted territory for all of us.

    The Atlantic article criticism you mention seems to be that "Where desisters meet with a concern of the community at large is that desisters are often used in bad faith to say that being transgender is not a real medical issue." But the article talks about some people who transition happily, some who transition and regret it, and others who realize their dysphoria is secondary before transitioning and get better without transitioning.  It doesn't say people shouldn't transition, just that you should work through issues carefully in case there is something else that is confusing things. At least one expert in the Atlantic article actually has the article on their own web page. It sounds like your kid has a lot going on and I hope you can find someone who can help them work through it and get what they need to be better as soon as possible.  There are parent groups (all political stances) trying to figure out what their kids need at

    https://genderdysphoriasupportnetwork.com/ ,

    https://www.transgendertrend.com/ ,

    https://gendercriticalresources.com/ ,

    https://4thwavenow.com/

    I hope your kid is doing better soon!

    I appreciate all the thoughtful responses, since I am in a similar situation. It's good to know I'm not alone. This blog post really spoke to me https://4w.pub/autism-puberty-gender-dysphoria-view-from-an-autistic-des...

    If anyone else who posted wants to get in touch I would welcome it. Please contact me via my user name. 

    Wishig everyone well. 

    Parents should know that the websites mentioned in recent comments are considered to be anti-transgender by the trans community, in particular 4thWaveNow, Gender Critical, 4WPub and TransgenderTrend. The terms "gender critical" and "radical feminist" are dog whistles for the TERF community. Please educate yourself about these seemingly "unbiased" sources with "all political stances" -- they are not unbiased. Many of these sites have expressed support for JK Rowling, who has been the center of recent controversy because she believes that transgender women threaten her own identity as a woman. She published a highly transphobic manifesto on her website and continues to argue in favor of TERF viewpoints. In short, if you want to be an ally to your transgender child, these sites are not the place to start.

  • 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. 

    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. 

    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. 

    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!

    My AFAB child also told us they identify as non-binary and prefer a different name and the pronouns "they/them" last year when they were 15. It was also somewhat of a surprise to us, and I will admit it took us too long to start using their preferred pronouns consistently. So first of all I commend you for doing that. Our child had never been bullied or had disordered eating, but they have suffered from depression and anxiety and were unable to attend school through much of middle school. We also didn't see huge improvements in their anxiety and depression with medication and regular talk therapy. In their case, they developed very large breasts after puberty and we were already looking into breast reduction even before they came out as non-binary. It turned out that regular breast reduction could only get them down to a "C" cup, which still felt too big to them. We ended up deciding on "top" surgery which they went through last December, at age 16. I am very confident that was the right decision for them. In fact almost the first thing they said when they came out of the anesthesia was "I'm so happy!" They haven't expressed any interest in any other procedures or interventions like hormones.

    We have Kaiser and had some sessions at the Gender clinic in Oakland. Overall we've found Kaiser to be very good on this (although their mental health care in general is not great.) I think it's important for you to be able to separate your child's gender identity from their mental health issues. The bullying, anxiety etc. did not *cause* their non-binary gender identity, and their gender identity will not be affected by antidepressants. Similarly, any surgeries or other interventions will not solve "the problem" of their depression and anxiety. It will only address the problem of their body dysphoria, which may be contributing to their depression but is not the only factor.

    Now, 3 months after their surgery, our child is still 100% happy with the surgery. However they still struggle with depression and anxiety to some extent (although they are happier and less anxious now overall.) We found the doctors at Kaiser to be very aware of the mental health issues involved in these decisions, and I imagine the doctors who perform this surgery outside of Kaiser are too. They don't just do irreversible procedures on teens without a fair amount of discussion and counseling. I know this is difficult for you, but your child really needs you to accept them as they are. They are telling you that they are not female or male. If you love them, you have to believe them. Sending love, peace, and understanding to your family. 

    I would try the hormone blockers at this point but wouldn't support surgery yet. I think that it's better to wait to be fully grown and a bit more mature before doing anything irreversible. The only exception would be if they have already grown large breasts, that can be fairly devastating to a nonbinary teen. I would consider a reduction if they have that issue.

    In the old days people had to be on hormones for a couple of years before getting surgery and I think it's a good idea. After that everyone knows if it's a phase or not. In my opinion, there's a lot of pressure on butch women and feminine men to transition that wasn't there when I was growing up and it's harder to tell who's truly trans and in need of life-saving surgery versus a typical teen/young adult questioning everything.

    I think that you are awesome and doing the right thing. Support them by using the desired name and pronouns and getting the hormones but impose a delay of a few years on surgical intervention (other than breast reductionif needed). Hopefully you can find them a great primary care doctor who understands these issues and will help your family through the process. Maybe someone on here has a good referral.

    OP here. Thanks, to clarify. my kid is an older teen, past puberty. Also, the bullying was not related to gender issues but to their weight and happened many years ago and possibly created trauma around their body shape and size. I agree about love, acceptance, and validation and am working on it. 

    My family has been through this with my nephew. Your concerns are understandable and I think being supportive while keeping the door open for your child to change their mind is a good approach. You may get called transphobic, but you know your child best. Good luck. 

    My transgender child sees Jay Williams at:
    https://spectrumpractice.com/
    He has been an incredible therapist that has helped my child through really difficult times. My 15 year old also anxiety, depression, sensory issues, been bullied, & had disordered eating/ARVID.
    To gain deeper understanding of all the terms and identity labels prior to conducting the activity, read Sam’s “Breaking through the Binary: Gender Explained Using Continuums” article (szp.guide/bttb) or book A Guide to Gender (szp.guide/g2g).
    Check out this great website:
    https://thesafezoneproject.com/activities/genderbread-person/
    https://thesafezoneproject.com/resources/
    Read books:
    Beyond the Gender Binary (Pocket Change Collective)
    by Alok Vaid-Menon, Ashley Lukashevsky (Illustrations)
    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/48190203-beyond-the-gender-binary

    My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, Or Something Else Entirely
    https://books.google.com/books/about/My_Gender_Workbook.html?id=NjH32xMT...

    Feel free to ask me questions

    Hello my assigned female at birth child also expressed the same things.  It started around age 15 at first as non-binary and then as trans male.  Also, he had bullying at school and a molestation at age 10, a trauma that I don't feel was properly addressed at the time. Up until age 15 he had long, long hair and dressed and acted like a girl never expressing that he didn't feel comfortable with his gender or that he didn't want to be a girl.

    At 16, he wanted to take testosterone and also talked of having top surgery.   Many of his online friends were non-binary.  We let him start the testosterone.  He took it for about a year and then decided on his own to stop.  He still has facial and body hair from that.  We were torn about the top surgery since we didn't feel that at 16 he had the maturity to make that decision and although we didn't want to make him sad, we kept putting it off.  When we finally began talking with a Dr. and setting up appointments, it turned out that my insurance company wouldn't cover it until the age of 18. (BUT the doctor WOULD have)

    Thank God because his 18th birthday came and went (he's 19 now) with no mention of it and he told us he changed his mind and doesn't want to ever do that.  

    At one point last summer he expressed wanting to be referred to as 'she' again but that didn't last long.  He seems to want to be feminine a lot of the time but at the same time wants to be referred to as 'he'.  This is with no pressure from me at all.  He wears dresses sometimes, and makeup, earrings and nail polish daily. 

    For me as a mother, i see a confusion of self,  anxiety with the world and an underlying mental illness (diagnosed with dissociative disorder) caused by childhood trauma.  

    I would urge you to be supportive of your child and allow them to express their identity but without taking any non-reversible steps.  It was so easy to get the testosterone at 16 that it's frightening.  My son was born and raised outside the U.S. where it would not have been possible at all.  We didn't move back here till a few years ago, so I was not used to what to expect.

    I would also urge you to keep trying therapists, psychologist and psychiatrists until you find the right one.  I can recommend Zara Drapkin but she doesn't take insurance.  It has only been in the last 5 months that I've finally decided to pay out of pocket and it is expensive but I think worth it.

    First and foremost, you know and love your child better than any therapist or doctor.  Be very assured of that.  Find someone you can explain your questions and apprehensions to.

    Another place that was very very good is Alta Bates (on Dwight) that has an outpatient program (but is hard to get in) and also might not be meeting because of the coronavirus.

    I'm sorry for you and your child because I know it's very difficult for both of you.  Try to take things one by one and get through little milestones. 

    I hope they get better soon.

    Take care

    This is a challenging issue.  On one hand, we want to honor our children and their ability to define themselves and know their needs.  On the other, they are young, with still developing brains, who may not be able to fully and accurately identify issues, and act on impulse more than careful consideration.  Add mental health challenges to the mix, and it is hard to know what to do, and in what order.  

    The Atlantic magazine had a very thoughtful piece about this issue.  https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/07/when-a-child-says-shes-trans/561749/

    UCSF Benioff Chlidren's Hospital has a Child and Adolescent Gender Center.  https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/clinics/child_and_adolescent_gender_center/

    Good luck.  

  • 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. 

    Hello! I had bookmarked this question so I could reply to it at home and lo and behold, I just got an email from Gender Spectrum that registration is now open for their summer conference. It's not a summer camp, but it's where you can connect with other parents and find out about more resources for your fam. People over-use the word "life-changing" but in this case it's apt. Attending this conference every summer for, like, all of my kid's teen years was a life-line. Register NOW tho. If money is a concern, they have scholarships and volunteer opportunities. Link is below but if it somehow doesn't post, just google "gender spectrum July 20" or similar and you should be able to find it. 

    https://www.genderspectrum.org/2019-conference-and-symposium/

     

    Our favorite sitter is gender non-conforming and is always a counselor at the Gender Spectrum Conference in Moraga every summer.  I found this link:  https://www.genderspectrum.org/2019-conference-and-symposium/

    Since it's local, maybe there is the opportunity to find other kids/families nearby to bond with, or to hear about other groups and activities in the area.

  • 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. 

    I would encourage you to contact John Luna Sparks who I worked with for many years at Children's Hospital.  John is an LCSW with great experience and familiarity regarding these issues , certainly worth talking with him about your daughter.  He also is an Acupuncturist.  This is his website.  I believe his Psychotherapy practice may be in Albany.

    https://lunasparksacupuncture.com/john-luna-sparks-lac-lcsw/

    Dr. Diane Ehrensaft is a long time expert in the area of child treatment and gender questions.

    I think Jessie Rose Cohen (who is great) works more with gender-questioning teens, but she'd know whom to refer you to.  Make sure you get a specialist in gender identity.

    Best of luck.

    Sorry I don't have a therapist recommendation, but as an adjunct, I can recommend the novel "This is how it always is" http://www.lauriefrankel.net/this-is-how-it-always-is.html by Laurie Frankel. It tells the story of a family and their M to F transgender child from a smart, fun, well written and well researched perspective.

    If you have Kaiser, I wholeheartedly recommend Rebecca Patridge. She is based out of Kaiser MH in Walnut Creek. 

    A trans friend of mine wholeheartedly recommends Erik Grabow MFT. He is based near Ashby BART. His number is 510-549-3797. 

    If you need additional resources, you are welcome to message me. 

    Another place for resources would be the Trans Lifeline. 

    Much love to you and your child. 

  • 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