Transgender vs. gender nonconforming

What is the difference between transgender and gender-nonconforming? Diane Ehrensaft, PhD illustrates some key signs that might help parents understand their child better.
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Transgender vs. gender nonconforming

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Parents and mental health professionals, alike, are wondering how do I tell the difference with this child is transgender or this child is gender noncomforming, maybe, gender noncomforming on the way to being gay. There is some simple language that I have learned as a psychologist. The transgender children that I work with will typically say to me, "I am a girl or boy." The gender nonconforming child will typically say, "I feel like a girl or a boy," or sometimes, "I wish I was." It's not an exact science, but it usually does separate the two groups. One group is saying, "I am," the gender that is opposite from their birth certificate. The other one is saying, "I like to play around and imagine that I might be, sometimes." Some of those children, will grow up to be gay. On the way to being gay, as little children -- I'll take a boy -- he decides, "I'm going to be a little princess and the prince will marry me." Then he gets a little older and discovers, "Oh, you don't have to be a princess to marry a prince." So I don't really want to be a girl, I want to marry a boy. That's when you may even stop being gender nonconforming as you move into your gay identity.

What is the difference between transgender and gender-nonconforming? Diane Ehrensaft, PhD illustrates some key signs that might help parents understand their child better.

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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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