Gender-Nonconforming & Questioning Kids
Archived Q&A and Reviews
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
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
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
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!
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
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