What is Transgender or Gender Identity?

What does gender identity mean?

Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else.

What is Gender Expression?

Gender Expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics.

What does transgender mean?

Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth.


How can my child be sure they are transgender or gender variant?

Your child did not choose to be transgender or gender variant. It is natural to think that your child is simply undergoing an experimental phase or that your child is confused. However, keep in mind that you could direct a similar question to yourself: “Why did I choose to be male/female?” It is important to remember that just as you are living your life as male or female because it is comfortable for you, your child feels the need to do what is most honest for him or herself.

I feel I am losing my daughter/son. How can I get her/him back?

It is normal to feel that the child you once knew is no longer a part of your life. However, your child is still the same person. Any person close to you who may present shocking information is still the same person at heart. Try not to take his new information as a reason to give up or feel left out, but rather as a new opportunity to learn more about your child. Bear in mind that the things you wanted or thought you understood about your child may not reflect how your child actually feels.

Why did my child wait so long to tell me?

It is a difficult process to realize that your gender identity does not correspond to the way others perceive your gender. Many people who realize that they are transgender or gender variant may have felt “different” throughout a portion of their lives without ever understanding why they felt that way. Plus, our predominant culture does not make it easy for those born male to feel they are female (or vice versa), which can cause your transgender or gender variant child to be reluctant or frightened to express how he/she truly feels. The fact that your child has told you the truth means your child is ready to express this very personal part of her/himself with you, and wishes to be more honest with you.

Does this mean my child is gay?

Being transgender or gender variant does not necessarily mean that your child is gay. Just as a person who is not transgender or gender variant may be gay, straight, or bisexual, so can a transgender or gender variant person. It is up to your child to decide what is most comfortable for her/himself.

If my child isn’t gay, why are transgender or gender variant people so often grouped with the gay community?

Transgender or gender variant people are often grouped with the gay community be- cause there is a common feeling of being ostracized by the people in their lives and the world around them. Similarly, PFLAG recognizes that parents, families, and friends of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans persons may all experience the same stages of denial and grief. While sexual orientation may not bring gay and transgender or gender variant people together, the struggles and stages of acceptance are very closely connected.

Is there anything I could have done to prevent this?

Your child’s gender identity is not preventable. Many families may never recognize that their child is having severe difficulties, while others report children as young as age three clearly identifying with the other gender. It is not your fault that your child feels the way he/she does; instead of thinking of your child’s unconventional gender identity as something you should have prevented, think of it instead as something you can help flourish. Your child needs you.

What about Gender Identity Disorder?

Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is a psychological classification found in the older versions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) (DSM4 and Previous) published by the American Psychiatric Association. While GID is the only diagnosis under which transsexuals may receive treatment, GID has been used inappropriately and harmfully by some psychotherapists to treat gender variant youth. Moreover, many if not most TG people also believe that they do not have a mental disorder, and to treat them as such would be offensive and mentally damaging.

In the most recent volume of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM V) the Gender Identity Disorder (GID) classification has been replaced with a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of experiences of transgender or gender variant individuals. They now understand this as Gender Dysphoria. Dysphoria means a state of feeling unwell or unhappy due the misalignment of the sense of self internally and the physical body.

Should my child undergo psychotherapy?

While some children with GID may benefit from a supportive therapist, the GID diagnosis has been used to manipulate these children to become more gender conforming. If your child feels therapy is necessary, it is important that the therapist supports your child’s gender identity.

To find a supportive therapist in Broward County contact SunServe at 954-764-5150 or visit www.sunserve.org

Why does my child have to express this openly?

The fact that your child has decided to express his/her unconventional gender identity openly is due to at least one of two factors. For one, your child is starting to build self esteem and become more comfortable with his/her gender identity.

Also, in some cases, your child’s readiness to be more open about his or her identity is a part of a process called gender transition. Gender transition is the period during which a transgender or gender variant person may decide to change his/her physical appearance and body to match his/her internal gender identity. If your child decides to do this, he/she may identify as a transsexual. Transsexuals are transgender or gender variant persons who decide to make the physical transition from one gender to another.

What if my child decides to undergo medical procedures to change gender appearance?

If your child decides to make the physical transition from one gender to another, it is important to be as supportive as possible. While it may be hard to see your child’s physical appearance change so drastically, gender transition is often a necessary step for your child to feel more comfortable living openly as another gender.

Will my child be discriminated against? Is my child in danger?

Unfortunately, both of these things are possible. When someone who is transgender or gender variant comes out, the ability to pass for their new gender is usually limited. Due to the amount of discrimination against transgender or gender variant people, it may be hard for your child to live a life free of harassment. It is even more unfortunate for your transgender or gender variant child when this discrimination exists within her/his own family

Now what? How can I support my child?

The fact that you are reading this pamphlet shows that you are a concerned parent who is willing to show support for your child and learn more about transgender individuals. You are on the way to feeling better. You should be willing to talk, listen, and learn together with your child. It may also be helpful for you to talk about your experiences with others, and PFLAG Broward is here to help you with your needs as the parent of a transgender or gender variant child. It is important that you educate yourself as much as possible about transgender individuals and then help reduce some of the discrimination that exists in our society. After all, it is silence that allows prejudice and discrimination to survive.

Part of this information has also been adapted from PFLAG publication Our Trans Children and Simple Answers to Parent’s Questions about  Lesbians, Gay, and Bisexuals, San Diego PFLAGs pamphlet Answers to Parent’ Questions About Transgender People and American Psychological Association publication Answers to your Questions about Transgender People, Gender Identity and Gender Expression.

To learn more visit

Gender Spectrum

TransYouth Family Allies