This article originally appeared in Macaroni Kid on Aug 24, 2017 by Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS; Health Affiliates Maine
Question: My 13-year-old daughter recently told me that she is gender fluid. I’ve heard the term before but am not that familiar. I want to be supportive but don’t know where to start to learn more. The web has a lot of conflicting information. Please assist.
Answer: Gender fluid describes a person who identifies with both genders, and moves between expressing themselves as male and female. They can have characteristics and traits of both sexes. Many are comfortable not being either/or, but both. For young people with developing bodies, perspectives, and personalities, it can be confusing. Our culture is also confused, and messages about gender can be hurtful sometimes.
It is great that your first impulse is to be supportive and learn more. That is really good parenting! While your daughter explores her gender identity, provide time of open conversation without judgment and “shoulds.” Let her know you want to understand. Each child is individual and all kinds of uncertainties and insecurities are common. Some children try on different identities while they are finding their way, ultimately settling into one as they develop.
Counseling is an important option for her to learn more about herself and form healthy self-esteem in the process. Look for a counselor who specializes in these issues. Counseling can also be helpful for you, as you try to understand. Sometimes the picture in our head of how life will go, for us and for our children, doesn’t match the current reality. Sharing this journey with a counselor can give you the information you need going forward.
Luanne Starr Rhoades, LCPC, LADC, CCS is a professional counselor and the Outpatient Therapy Director at Health Affiliates Maine, a mental health and substance abuse treatment agency serving adults, adolescents, children and families. For more information or if you or someone you know needs help, call us at 877-888-4304 or visit our website www.healthaffiliatesmaine.com and click on “Referrals.”