Gender spectrum

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Gender spectrum

We often talk about a gender spectrum or a spectrum of genders. And what is very important for all of us to know is that gender comes in many shapes and sizes. And, I am going to give you just a simple laundry list. It is not exhaustive. There is the transgender child. That is the child who says I am not the gender that is on my birth certificate. I am the opposite gender. There is the gender fluid child and that is the child who plays along the dimensions of gender from male to female as we as a culture define that and is perfectly happy with the gender on their birth certificate but not with expressing it in binary boxes. Then, there are the kids that I call gender hybrids. They will tell me you know what, I am half boy, I am half girl. Now these are children who may be on their way to being transgender but for the time being they see themselves as somewhat of a hybrid. Then, there are older youth call themselves gender queer. And they say to us why are you hung up with any of these categories. Why do I have to define gender at all? I am just all genders. Another way of thinking about that is I am a gender smoothie. Take everything about gender, put in the blender, press it, mix it up. That is me. There are also what I call proto gay children. These are children who explore gender non-conformity on their way to being gay. There are also proto transgender children and those are actually proto transgender youth usually. And they explore being first and say you know what, that is not me. I am actually transgender. And the last category is what I call gender oreos. And those are children who present one gender on the outside and they are a different gender on the inside. And those are often children who are too afraid to let their real gender come out so they put up a false front. But underneath, they know their gender to be other than what people think it is.

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Diane Ehrensaft, PhD

Clinical Psychologist

Diane Ehrensaft, PhD is a developmental and clinical psychologist in Oakland, California. She is a parenting expert and also specializes in gender studies and psychotherapy and consultation with gender nonconforming children and their families. She is the author of Gender Born, Gender Made:  Raising Healthy Gender-Nonconforming Children; Mommies Daddies, Donors, Surrogates, Building a Home Within (co-edited with Toni Heineman), Spoiling Childhood, and Parenting Together. Dr. Ehrensaft has made many media appearances, most recently the Anderson Cooper Day show, and has presented and published both nationally and internationally on the subjects of parenting, child development, assisted reproductive technology, and children’s gender development and gender nonconformity.

Dr. Ehrensaft is the Director of Mental Health of the Child and Adolescent Gender Center, a University of California San Francisco-community partnership offering interdisciplinary services to gender conforming children and youth and their families, as well as the psychologist at the UCSF Gender Clinic.

She serves on the faculty of The University of California and is a founding member of A Home Within, a national non-profit organization serving the mental health needs of children and youth in foster care.

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