Supporting Gender-Expansive Teens
Gender-expansive teens are adolescents who don’t feel limited to the binary gender of male and female. By adopting socially, culturally and occasionally medically accepted methods, these teens are able to express their gender differently, on their own terms. But what should parents, friends and other adults understand when they meet or come into contact with gender-expansive teens?
Understand that gender identity is a profoundly personal and unique experience
Gender-expansive teens are not part of a new trend or newsworthy item, but are individuals expressing themselves however they feel necessary. Remember that a gender-expansive teen may be exploring and discovering their identity and understanding their place in the world, and that it is an incredibly personal and unique experience.
Learn from, and don’t judge, gender-expansive teens
Supporting gender-expansive teens means getting to know their individual story and what their journey through their expression looks like. Before passing judgment or assuming you know someone’s story, take some time to learn. Ask questions, understand what pronouns they feel comfortable with and be a safe space for them to have conversations about their feelings.
Be aware of resources and ways to support gender-expansive teens
Support also means being aware of resources available to gender-expansive teens. Depending on the situation and where you live, there may be physical and mental health services and programs in your city that can help with gender exploration. Here are some other ways you can support gender-expansive teens:
- Educate yourself about gender identity and gender expression – Read up on stories of gender-expansive teens, single out articles on gender-expansive issues and get to know the language and terminology of gender-expansive cultures.
- Look for positive role models – Finding positive role models or stories of others who have come out or have had similar experiences can be helpful in offering inspiration, finding acceptance and making connections.
- Reinforce gender-expansive communities – Look out for online or local LGBTQIA+ friendly spaces, events and social groups to help teens find a safe space to be themselves.
Including and supporting gender-expansive teens is so important and helps them increase their understanding of their own gender identity. Showing acceptance and making an effort to understand them are fundamental to help show that identity and expression are theirs to define.