More and more young folks these days are throwing…

photo by kaitlyn tikkun via flickr

More and more young folks these days are throwing traditional gender stereotypes and rigid labels to the wayside to forge a culture that they can identify with. As youth continue to take on these nonconforming identities, it is important to understand what they mean and how we can support them (a list of terms is also available on the Gender Equity Resource Center’s website).

The term transgender describes someone with an identity that does not match that of their biological sex. Transgender folks may choose to alter their bodies as they see fit in order to match their identity with hormones, surgery, both or neither.

Genderqueer describes a gender that does not include the current terms of man, woman or transgender. Folks who identify as genderqueer often feel that the restrictive categories of gender and sexual orientation don’t describe them, so instead use the term to create their own safe space.

There are a few important things to think about when working with youth that identify as transgender or genderqueer. Both of these identities can take on different definitions for each person that identifies with them, so it is always important to talk with a youth and find out how they identify and what that means to them. It’s important to step outside your comfort zone and ask a young person what pronouns they prefer rather then make that youth feel alienated.

By providing transgender and genderqueer youth with a voice in how they identify, we can empower them to find a safe space where they can thrive. And remember, once you find out how a young person identifies and you know which pronouns (or lack of pronouns) they prefer, stick to those words when referring to them. A young person’s identity is in their hands, not yours.

– Katrina


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