Gender identity is about the gender you feel on the inside and how you express it on the outside. This is often seen in a person’s appearance and preferences, for example clothing or hobbies. It can also be seen in a person’s behaviour, for example the way they talk, the way they walk or the way they express their emotions. Gender norms, roles and expectations are part of each society, and children start to pick up these cues from an early age.
To support your child with developing their gender identity, you can start by thinking about the values you want to pass on to your child about gender. You may have particular views about what it means to be a good man or good woman based on your cultural or religious values. You may have ideas about gender norms and roles, and the importance of equality between the genders.
Whatever values you may have, thinking about them early can help you to identify the best ways to support your child to develop their gender identity. Some ways to support them are to:
- teach them about your values about gender, and where they can go if they have questions or need help
- give them options to make decisions about their own appearance. For example, the clothes they wear or their hairstyle
- give them options to make decisions about which sport they play, or which hobby group they join
- reassure them that you love them no matter their gender identity
Your child may have preferences that you don’t like. They may also have preferences for things not typically associated with their gender. Some of this may be experimentation, but it may also be something that your child identifies with. Giving your child opportunities to learn through experience means that sometimes you need to let them do things you don’t agree with if there are no immediate concerns about safety.
It’s also important to keep in mind that people with intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder can also be transgender. This is where a person identifies as a different gender to their biological sex. Even if your child is not transgender, it can be a good idea to teach your child what transgender means so that they know how they should treat transgender people.
For more information about teaching your child about what transgender means, go to LGBTIQ.