Gender-nonconforming children—including those who are agender, transgender, bigender, gender fluid, or have other identities—are often met with parental rejection. A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association explored the process through which parents may come to accept their gender-nonconforming children.
Exploring the Process of Parental Acceptance
Researchers from the University of California, Davis, followed 29 mothers and seven fathers with gender-nonconforming children. The study included 33 children between the ages of 5 and 16. Fourteen were trans girls, nine were trans boys, and 10 were gender-diverse boys.
Parental acceptance of transgender kids is often a slow process, the study found. Parents were quicker to notice gender nonconformance in children designated male at birth (DMAB) than children designated female at birth (DFAB). DFAB children were more typically labeled tomboys when they did not conform to gender stereotypes.
Parents of gender-nonconforming boys often attempted to set limits on when and where their children could present as girls, fearing discrimination and bullying. Parents often explained these guidelines in terms of practical rules, such as the weather being too cold to wear a dress. Parents were more likely to eventually relax these rules when they realized how unhappy their children were, researchers found.
The Effects of Parental Rejection on Transgender Children
Research consistently points to the damaging effects of rejection and stigma on gender-nonconforming kids. Half of transgender adolescents attempt suicide by their 20th birthdays, and 41% of transgender adults attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Harassment, isolation, and bullying all figure prominently in suicidal thoughts and actions.
- Statistics about youth suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm
- Study examines families’ journeys to accepting transgender children. (2016, August 23). Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-08/asa-sef081616.php
- Ungar, L. (2015, August 16). Transgender people face alarmingly high risk of suicide. Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/08/16/transgender-individuals-face-high-rates–suicide-attempts/31626633/
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