Blog

Understanding Our Youngest Trans and Gender-Expansive Kids This Transgender Awareness Week

As transgender children and youth become increasingly visible and communities nationwide come together to show their support this Transgender Awareness Week, many people have questions about what it means for a child or teen to be transgender. Some wonder if a child is old enough to know their own gender identity, others aren’t sure what it means for a young person to transition, and many want to know how they can help transgender or gender-expansive kids in their communities grow up safe and healthy.

In September, HRC partnered with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians to release Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, a guide explaining what experts know about supporting our youngest transgender and gender-expansive kids, especially those in elementary school.

Parents and caregivers of transgender and gender-expansive kids often turn to medical and mental health providers who are experts in supporting children and families with concerns about gender. Until now, though, there haven’t been many resources for others who want to understand transgender and gender-expansive kids—including for some of the most important adults in a child’s life. For instance, friends’ parents may have questions about why a child is going by a new name and pronouns, or grandparents may wonder whether their transgender grandchild’s counselor is offering the most up-to-date advice. Families have shared the new guide not only with relatives and friends, but also with pediatricians and other professionals who work with their transgender child.

While transgender and gender-expansive children have much in common with their teen and adult counterparts, these different stages of life raise unique challenges for parents, caregivers and other adult supporters. Fortunately, September also marked the release of a cutting-edge resource on transgender adolescents: a book titled The Transgender Teen, by Stephanie Brill and Lisa Kenney of Gender Spectrum.

For those seeking to learn even more about transgender and gender-expansive children, HRC recommends The Gender-Creative Child by Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental psychologist and gender expert who contributed to Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children.

Like parents and caregivers, schools across the country are learning to affirm and include transgender and gender-expansive children. Last year, HRC partnered with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Gender Spectrum, the ACLU and the National Education Association on Schools in Transition, a groundbreaking guide for K-12 administrators, teachers and parents. The guide describes the legal landscape for transgender students, discusses crucial policies that affect students’ daily experiences, and offers advice for working with families who aren’t yet supportive of their child’s identity.

The message of all four resources is the same: transgender kids thrive when their families and communities affirm their gender identity and expression.

This week, HRC marks Transgender Week of Awareness, dedicated to the progress, continued challenges, and unfinished work in the fight for transgender equality. Throughout the week, HRC will dedicate each day to urgent and important issues facing the transgender community, including support for youth and families, workplace equality, access to life-saving and inclusive health care, and combatting violence against the transgender community. The week concludes with with Transgender Day of Remembrance on November 20 when the community comes together for vigils around the country to honor those lost in the past year. Learn more at hrc.im/TransAwarenessWeek.