Gender nonconformity has received a lot of attention in the media lately. Can you talk a little about what gender nonconformity and transgender means?
|Gender and Family Project|
The first group is the gender nonconforming group who might or might not be transgender. They might be people like you and me, who don’t fit neatly in the pink or blue box. Their gender expression doesn’t conform with the social stereotypes of masculinity and femininity.
The second group refers to transgender children or youth. These children experience a strong gender dysphoria, a discomfort with the gender they were assigned at birth. For instance, we work with biological boys who not only like girls’ toys, clothing, and hairstyles, but also identify as girls, and vice versa. For these children, it is not a phase, and they may express a desire to socially transition from boy to girl, which means changing the name and pronoun by which they are referred to, the way they are perceived by the world, and the way they are treated by their family.
Can you talk about the Gender and Family Project here at the Ackerman Institute?
The Gender and Family Project has been up and running for just under two years. It consists of outpatient clinical services and community groups for children, youth, and families with gender nonconforming and transgender children. Once a month we have two group meetings, one is a support group for parents and the other is a playgroup for pre-teens up to the age of 13.
|Gender and Family Project Team, Jean Malpas, LMHC, LMFT |
and Andrea Blumenthal, LCSW
When parents first attend the group, they are often distressed and uncertain about what to do for their child and how to handle the issues. The group really normalizes the situation. It shows them that other people have gone through similar challenges and found ways to raise their children in a safe and empowered way. Families exchange resources and experiences, like how to talk to schools, how to talk to other children, teachers, and grandparents. So, it is really an enormous source of relief and support.
The gender nonconforming children have often felt ostracized and socially anxious in other contexts. However, within a couple of meetings, they relax and literally blossom. Children who previously were shy or did not socialize, are eager to return to the group because they feel like they are not the odd one out, instead they can be with other children like themselves. Then it very quickly becomes just a playgroup, a space for kids to get comfortable, know each other, and have fun. It is not particularly about gender, but the group is affirmative of whatever gender expression the child might have. The impact on the children and their families is very positive.
What’s on the horizon for the GFP Project?
Because of clinical demand, we are taking steps to open another playgroup geared towards younger children. The second group will be for pre-teens, and ultimately, we’d like to open a third group for teens. We want to be able to offer services to children at all ages and continue through teenage years.
|"Summer's Different," an upcoming |
dance piece on gender
The Gender and Family Project team is also preparing to start doing school trainings in the next academic year. We are receiving training from a nationally recognized organization in the field of gender education. Soon, we’ll be able to not only support the family, but also the family in its environment. Through school trainings, we’ll support teachers and staff and provide them with guidance on how to think about gender in flexible ways.
Buy tickets to “Summer’s Different” now.
So far, we’ve been able to operate the Project on a volunteer basis through the gracious donations of families that can afford it. As we are getting ready to expand our services, we would be grateful for any support for the Project. Thank you!
Learn more about Gender Variance in the video series, “Short Conversations with Jean Malpas.”