Hudson Valley Parent

HVP July 2019

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22 Hudson Valley Parent n July 2019 Brenner says can help parents with kids who are just coming out as transgender or to gain better understanding of the use of pronouns and many other aspects of the transition. Happy children have the pronoun they want Fran Divine has two grown sons, one of whom is gay. She facilitates PFlag, a national organization that provides support and advocacy for families and individuals in the LGBTQ community, and a PFlag support group at the Kingston LGBTQ community center. She has worked with many families with children who expressed their transgendered identities early on. She recalls talking with a mother whose child was born female and who is now a trans male. "At a very young age, she tore off her dress and wanted to wear her brother's underwear." Divine says she's not of the belief that calling a child "they" or "them" is the critical factor. Instead, she advises, "Watch for signs of your child's By OLIVIA L. LAWRENCE A new pronoun protocol has gotten some attention recently. "Theybies" embraces the idea of letting your baby start out in life with non-gendered pronouns - not assigning labels of "he" and "she." Advocates of this gender-fluid, non-binary approach, say to use "they" or "them" until the child decides on their own what best suits their identity. Local experts with a deep knowledge of gender identity and sexual orientation tell us that what's more important than which pronoun you use is keeping an open mind, listening to your child and providing opportunities for them to explore their identity. "What pronouns to use, the concept of "theybies" and all that is involved in gender assignment is much more controversial outside of the LGBTQ community," says Farrell Brenner, director of programs and services for the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center in Kingston. People within that community feel more comfortable with fluidity around personal choice when it comes to identity. Brenner explains that it's a common misperception that historically or even grammatically that the conventions of "he" and "she" are somehow absolutes. "We use they/them often when we don't know the gender of a person." "We're always talking and learning as a culture and this is part of that growth," says Brenner. "Rather than accepting rigid gender roles assigned at birth, parents might want to think of this as an opportunity. Leave gender open to create an open space. By doing this a child is given a chance to explore ...they can reimagine the world on their own terms." preferences in clothes or toys." The pronoun issue comes up frequently in the group she facilitates. While there is no specific age to decide on the right pronoun, Divine suggests that parents follow their child. "If you want a happy child give them the pronoun that child wants." Her grandchild is a year old, "She's now a female, but in the future - what will she be?" If the child is raised without options - for instance they don't know anything but pink - that's a limitation, Divine says. "Why not open up those options?" It is up to the child to explore identity Kaitlyn O'Connor, an 18-year-old student from Poughkeepsie, has personally navigated the gender spectrum more than once and voiced strong opinions on the "theybie" issue. Born female, at age 13 Kaitlyn chose to identify as male and did so for about four years. Last June, she returned to her original gender assignment. "Using they/them for a baby is The "theybie" debate Should parents wait to assign a gender to a baby? Families from the Hudson Valley marched together at the 2018 Gay Pride March. Families coming together to support their child is the most important part of growing up. Photo by Bonnie Brill

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