In the modern day society, gender is not isolated to being a male of female. Various identities in the context of gender are constantly evolving. This may present a dilemma to parents. What is the most appropriate response of parents to their daughter who insists on wearing boy’s clothes or their son who wants to wants dolls more than toy cars? Jean Malpas, the Director of the Gender and Family Project at Ackerman Institute for the Family, answered these queries in the Family Process by identifying a new strategy parents can apply with regard to their gender nonconforming and transgender children.
According to Jean Malpas, a multi-dimensional approach is very relevant in helping families of gender nonconforming and transgender children. She laid two clear pictures of gender. First is the traditional system of male or female that evidently governs the conventional society versus the range of gender noted in children, which is more fluid and flexible.
Furthermore, Jean Malpas stated the difficulties encountered by parents of these children on how they can best protect their child from the judgments of others, at the same time, accepting and fostering their child’s identity and totality. She further added how this study eases the struggle of families in dealing with this problem by identifying approaches like education, coaching, parent support group and family therapy.
Jean Malpas utilized various anonymous case studies that describe the different paths of children in the context of identity development. She also inferred from the clinical results that there is an existing normal diversity of gender expression among children. In the process, there will be nonconforming children that will eventually identify with their biological sex, whereas, some will grow as transgender or may continuously exhibit nonconforming behaviors.
Importantly, Malpas explained that studies on gender nonconformity may have significant impact on education policy. She added that schools should have consciousness and sensitivity to the non-biological and non-binary paradigms of gender. The presence of gendered activities and student segregation based on gender may not be in line with the complex and fluid gender expression of children. Furthermore, there has been a dividing line between the clinical approaches supporting the non-pathologisation of gender diversity and traditional psychiatric approaches.
Malpas stated that their findings revealed that gender nonconformity among children is a normal demonstration of complexity of gender identity and expression, not a psychpathology. Applying the multidimensional approach can contribute in the healthy growth of their children, at the same time, protecting them as they mature as individuals.