From gender identity disorder to gender identity creativity

In exercise books, sports line-ups, or in the simple act of going to the bathroom, school children have to answer the seemingly simple question, "are you a boy or a girl?" For Canadian school kids who exhibit cross-gender behaviour or presentation, this question is not only limiting, it's the source of angst.

Childhood gender independence, or gender creativity, is often viewed as an abnormality in need of a cure – but it's that attitude that needs to be fixed, according to Concordia University political science professor, Kimberley Manning. "The majority of gender independent children suppress their identities because of societal pressure. In reality, it's at this young age that these kids need the support and freedom to explore who they really are so that they have a better chance to grow up to be healthy and happy adults," she says.

Gender nonconforming children, many of whom will self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer by the time they hit adolescence, are more likely to be called names, be made fun of, or be bullied at school. Tragically, these same young people are also among the most vulnerable to harassment, violence, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide. According to a recently completed survey by Egale Canada, a national organization that advocates for human rights, 95 percent of transgender students feel unsafe at school. Clearly, the time to act is now.

There is hope. In recent years, more and more Canadian families have been actively asserting an affirmative approach to gender expression, seeking to understand and support their child's declared gender. There are few resources, however, to support families or to inform educators who are interested in creating safe and inclusive spaces for these children.

Manning is leading a multi-disciplinary group that is doing something to address this lack. "Social science and humanities research can play a vital role in puzzling through the structural oppressions faced by gender independent children and their families," she says.

Along with her colleagues, Elizabeth Meyer, a professor of education at California Polytechnic State University, and Annie Pullen Sansfaçon, a professor of social work at the Université de Montréal, Manning received a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Insight Development Grant last year to study the challenges faced by parents and educators as well as the opportunities for social mobilization. They are also working with Shuvo Ghosh, a developmental-behavioural pediatrician at the McGill University Health Centre, to establish a Montreal-based Interdisciplinary Research Alliance on Gender Expression in Youth (MIRAGE-Y).

This month, the group will host the National Workshop on Gender Creative Kids, which will welcome social scientists, educators, social workers, health professionals, parents, advocates and students to explore new questions and perspectives in the complex subject of in children.

The National Workshop on Gender Creative Kids takes place at Concordia University October 25-26, 2012. Although the conference is limited to registered participants only, a public keynote address will be held on Thursday, October 25, 7 – 9 p.m, at the D.B. Clarke Amphitheatre (1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.). Speaking will be Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, Developmental and Clinical Psychologist and Director of Mental Health Child and Adolescent Center, San Francisco. Although the talk will be given in English, simultaneous translation will be available in French.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Can the kids be all right if they are gay too?

Sep 13, 2010

New research on the children of LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) has unequivocally revealed that they are not only psychologically healthy, but often appear to exhibit better social and academic ...

Study links bullying to depression, other adult ailments

Oct 05, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- University of Arizona family studies researchers report in the journal Developmental Psychology that high school students whose sexual orientation is at odds with social gender norms often find themselves victim ...

New study explores social comparison in early childhood

Oct 30, 2008

It has been shown (and probably experienced by all of us) that performing worse than our peers on a particular task results in negative self-esteem and poorer subsequent performance on the same task. How people respond when ...

Recommended for you

Mother-daughter research team studies severe-weather phobia

Sep 19, 2014

No one likes severe weather, but for some just the thought of a thunderstorm, tornado, hurricane or blizzard can severely affect their lives. When blood pressures spike, individuals obsessively monitor weather forecasts and ...

Study: Pupil size shows reliability of decisions

Sep 18, 2014

Te precision with which people make decisions can be predicted by measuring pupil size before they are presented with any information about the decision, according to a new study published in PLOS Computational Bi ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

freethinking
1 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2012
Children who can't identify what sex they are by the time they hit school generally have idiot progressive parents who are so wrapped up in the homosexual agenda they are abusing their children into sexual confusion.

Even though the progressive homosexual and pedophilia lobby is trying to dumb down everyone, the simple biology is this, boys have boy parts, girl have girl parts. If you are a boy, you are male. If you are a girl, you are female.

If you are a boy and want to be a girl or if you are a girl and want to be a boy, you are either confused or have a mental problem.