New guide helps explain the issue of transgender children

kids thumbs upIf you are having trouble understanding what it means for children to be transgender, there is a new guide to help.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians recently released “Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children,” a guide to ensure that transgender young people are affirmed, respected and able to thrive.

The guide explains what it means for children to be transgender, why medical experts embrace a “gender-affirming” approach, and how community members can support transgender children, young people and their families.

“While our country continues its national conversation around transgender equality, we must never forget that at the center of this dialogue are real children fighting to be seen, valued and respected,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, senior vice president of programs, research, and trainings for the Human Rights Campaign, the educational arm of the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization. “This new guide provides parents and clinicians alike with vital information in their ongoing pursuit of doing right by all young people. Our partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians reinforces the overwhelming medical consensus that respecting and affirming transgender young people is not only necessary, but also potentially lifesaving.”

The guide begins with the story of Jazz Jennings, one of the first and youngest transgender children to share her story with a national audience in 2007 at the age of 6. Though assigned male at birth, Jazz identified as a girl from an early age and made that identity clear to her parents. They, in turn, helped her undergo a social gender transition, changing her name, clothing and pronouns to reflect her female identity. Now an advocate for all transgender youth, Jazz credits her parents, and the caring adults in her community, for her safe and healthy childhood.

What it means to be transgender

The guide is designed for anyone who knows a transgender or gender-expansive child, plans to write about children who transition, or simply wants to learn more. It reviews what medical and education experts know about transgender children, explores some myths about gender transition in childhood and offers suggestions for adults with a transgender child in their life.

A glossary of basic terms is included in the guide with words such as “gender-expansive,” which means children who do not conform to their culture's expectations for boys or girls but does not necessarily mean they are, or will be, transgender. A person's “gender identity” is their internal sense of being male, female or, for some, a blend of both or neither. The guide also explains that being transgender is not a sexual orientation; it describes someone's gender, not the person's attraction to other people.

“We know more than ever before about what transgender children need to grow up safe and healthy, and a large part of that is being accepted, nurtured and supported in their gender identity by their family, physicians and community,” said Dr. Karen Remley, executive director and chief executive officer of the AAP. “We hope this new guide will become a useful tool for anyone who has a transgender child in their life.”

Click here to see a copy of “Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children.

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