Gender experimentation as a phase

Learn about: Gender experimentation as a phase from Diane Ehrensaft, PhD,...
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Gender experimentation as a phase

A lot of us wonder whether children will experiment with gender and then grow out of it. Some say that is very common, particularly for preschool age kids and then they get to school and they are done with fantasy world and they get into reality. And a lot of other people say no, they actually do not grow out of it. They get a message: Stop doing it. And so the question is what is really happening here. And my answer to that question is it could be one and it could be the other. And it is really important for us to sort that out. The way to sort it out is to think for a moment. Has this child gotten messages that it is no longer okay for a little boy to wear his princess dress or for a girl to show up in a superhero costume or for a girl to say I am a boy or a boy to say I am a girl? Has somebody told them no more? You cannot do that anymore because you are going to kindergarden. Now that we get to kindergarden, we have to stop. Those are the children who are going to be the squashed children. And they will drive it underground and it is not healthy for them because then they are not being their real selves. And those are the children that I really worry about are the children who stop because they are ashamed or think they will get in trouble if they do or get bullied if they do. The other children who basically say I did that for a while and I am over doing something else now, I do not worry about those children because we are just giving them the space to move around wherever they want to be around gender. So I have worked with many children who I have had a frilly, froofroo little boy at age three. At age seven, he is on the soccer field and he said I am just not into that anymore. And he had very supportive parents who said you can wear your dress if you want to. It is fine. He goes but I do not want to anymore. The most important lesson for us to learn is listen to the children. Do not tell them and then we will be sure we are not squashing children. And we will really learn how common it is just to grow out it.

Learn about: Gender experimentation as a phase from Diane Ehrensaft, PhD,...


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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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