Recently I was with a group of teenagers answering their questions about all kind of things regarding sexual assault and intimate partner violence.

One of the teens asked me what the “T” in L (lesbian) G (gay) B (bi-sexual) T (Transgender) Q (Questioning) meant. I consulted the CDC and Human Rights Campaign websites for more information for this article.
Children are not born knowing what it means to be a boy or a girl; they learn it from their parents, older children, and others around them. This learning process begins early. As soon as the doctor announces – based on observing the newborn’s external sex organs – “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl,” the world around the child begins to teach these lessons- choosing blue clothes or pink clothes, “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” or telling young girls they’re “pretty” and boys they’re “strong.” This teaching of gender roles continues into puberty and adulthood as social expectations of masculine and feminine expression and behavior often become more rigid.
At some point, all children will engage in behavior associated with different genders – girls will play with trucks, boys will play with dolls, girls will hate wearing dresses and boys will insist on wearing them – which does not necessarily mean that a child is transgender — sometimes it does – with some children identifying as another gender from the one they were assigned by the time they are toddlers.
But gender does not exist in those simple male/female or boy/girl terms; gender is more of a spectrum, with all individuals expressing and identifying with varying degrees of both masculinity and femininity. Transgender people identify along this spectrum, but also identify as a gender that is different than the one they were assigned at birth.
The general rule for determining whether a child is transgender is if the child is consistent, insistent, and persistent about their transgender identity. In other words, if your 4-year-old son wants to wear a dress or says he wants to be a girl once or twice, he probably is not transgender; but if your child who was assigned male at birth repeatedly insists over the course of several months that she is a girl, then she is probably transgender. Naturally, there are endless variations in the ways that children express themselves, so if you think your child might be transgender it is best to consult a gender therapist.
One of the most important and difficult tasks that parents face is how to best support their children while also setting the kind of boundaries and structure that helps them grow up to become responsible and successful adults.
Yes, children and teens love to test the boundaries that adults set for them, but it is important to make distinctions between “kids are just being kids” and when they’re asserting things about themselves that are critical to their identity and development — as is the case with gender identity and expression.   
Gender identity and expression are central to the way we see ourselves and engage in the world around us. This is certainly true of transgender expansive children and teens, for whom family support is absolutely critical.
Many studies show that rejection by family and friends of LGBTQ youth can:
•Lead LGBTQ youth to engage in behaviors that put their health at risk,
•Trigger depression and other mental health problems,
•Result in homelessness or suicide.
Family support can act as a buffer against bullying and bias outside the home. As child welfare expert Caitlin Ryan has demonstrated, “Family acceptance predicts greater self-esteem, social support, and general health status,” for LGBTQ youth. It also protects against depression, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation and behaviors,” issues for which transgender youth are at disproportionate risk.”
For some transgender youth, family support can be the difference between life and death.

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