There's a lot of conflicting information out there on gender identities -- as of right now, no one really knows what pushes people toward a particular gender, and what leads some people to be more gender nonconforming. There's a lot of conflicting science, and it's a subject that brings out a lot of loud opinions. So what does this mean for parents?
As more people increase their education on the gender spectrum and society's aggressive gendering of children, it is becoming a more and more popular practice to engage in gender neutral parenting. Put simply, that means children are being raised with as little gender bias in their lives as possible. This can be difficult in a world where toy aisles and clothing departments alike are separated by gender, with girls being flooded with pink and purple while boys are given every other color in the rainbow.
Practicing gender neutral parenting is more about removing restrictions than anything. Instead of offering your child the toys and clothes generally associated with their gender, let them choose from the full spectrum available. In some cases you may have to decide how to deal with heavily gendered gifts from relatives, but overall it's a relatively simple choice that opens up a whole new world of options for your child and helps them feel confident in expressing themselves early in life.
Expressing Gender Identity
The jury is still out on at what age most gender nonconforming children begin realizing they may be different, but there are many reports of children a young as 4 saying they want to be a certain gender. Studies have shown, across the board, that the best approach to parenting a gender nonconforming or gender expansive child is affirmative parenting.
Affirmative parenting is, as its name suggests, a strong focus on positivity and supporting the child's choices. Being wholly accepting and supportive of your child, they can feel safe in exploring any questions or uncertainties they may have about their own gender and helps them keep a positive sense of self as they age.
An important part of affirmative parenting often means running interference between your child and the outside world and even extended family members. This is a big part of creating a supportive environment; ensure that the people who interact with your child on a regular basis are, at the very least, respectful of your child's gender expression and don't undermine the support they receive at home. As the parents, you must establish a policy of zero tolerance for pressure, bullying, and negative comments from the adults in your child's life.
Continuing this kind of support as your child ages and keeping a policy of open communication makes gender exploration a positive experience and will help you better know when your child is stressing or has questions they may need help answering. Don't be afraid to seek outside help; family or individual counseling is always an option to help resolve difficult questions and provide additional support.