July 24, 2014 1 Comment
The proposed stigmatizing diagnosis of Gender Incongruence of Childhood should be completely removed from the ICD-11.
Having facilitated a family support group for 7 years, personally worked with over 100 families and connected online with hundreds more, I have a great deal of experience with gender-expansive children. For the past several years, the majority of families have been contacting our group when their children are younger than 10 years old. Most of the children have been on a clear path to transition, and have proceeded into medical transition at a later time. Others have displayed gender-nonconforming behavior, become comfortable with their gender expression for several years, returned to our support group at the onset of puberty, and started their medical transition shortly after. A significant percentage of children work through clarification of their identity and settle into something other than gender conformity or transition. I am only familiar with a small handful of children who have expressed a cross-gender identity who later settled into a comfort level with their assigned birth sex. What stands out most from my experiences is how incredibly unique each child and family can be. I often say that the only thing I know for certain, is that the next time I pick up the support line, I will hear a story that is unlike any other I’ve heard before.
Our families encourage each other to love their child unconditionally and share resources so parents can educate themselves regarding the medical, social, and legal implications of raising a gender-expansive child. The only time outside services are required prior to puberty are when the parents need support to accept and understand their child’s needs, or when the child needs assistance clarifying their gender identity.
Simply based on the extremely wide variation in identities and needs I observe, our prepubescent children, defy any sort of classification system. Services for these children should readily be available under more generic service codes.
Were I to identify any singular thing that would dramatically improve the lives of all gender-expansive children, it would that be that each and every one of them needs to know that there is nothing wrong with them. Even basic parental acceptance dramatically improves the life and mental health of our kids. This is something I have observed in nearly every gender expansive child I know. Children who live in more liberal areas, who are able to more fully integrate their gender identity due to greater community acceptance, thrive. Even with parents who powerfully support their child, it’s amazing to observe the positive changes children experience when they move from a stigmatizing community to one that celebrates them. There is truly nothing wrong with these children. Changing the perspective from an understanding of gender as a binary absolute to more accurately reflect the experiences of humanity is the only category modification that is needed. The proposed stigmatizing diagnosis of Gender Incongruence of Childhood should be completely removed from the ICD-11.
De-pathologising gender difference is probably the most important step that can be taken to dramatically improve the lives of gender-expansive children. The World Health Organization (WHO) has an opportunity to help gender-expansive children experience their birthright: the love of their family and community.