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A groundbreaking guide to caring for children who live outside binary gender boxes
We are only beginning to understand gender. Is it inborn or learned? Can it be chosen—or even changed? Does it have to be one or the other? These questions may seem abstract—but for parents whose children live outside of gender “norms,” they are very real.
No two children who bend the “rules” of gender do so in quite the same way. Felicia threw away her frilly dresses at age three. Sam hid his interest in dolls and “girl things” until high school—when he finally confided his desire to become Sammi. And seven-year-old Maggie, who sports a boys’ basketball uniform and a long blond braid, identifies as “a boy in the front, and a girl in the back.” But all gender-nonconforming children have one thing in common—they need support to thrive in a society that still subscribes to a binary system of gender.
Dr. Diane Ehrensaft has worked with children like Felicia, Sam, and Maggie for over 30 years. In Gender Born, Gender Made, she offers parents, clinicians, and educators guidance on both the philosophical dilemmas and the practical, daily concerns of working with children who don’t fit a “typical” gender mold. She debunks outmoded approaches to gender nonconformity that may actually do children harm. And she offers a new framework for helping each child become his or her own unique, most gender-authentic person.
About the Author
Diane Ehrensaft, PhD,is a developmental and clinical psychologist. At the University of California–San Francisco, she is the cofounder and director of mental health at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center, an associate professor of pediatrics, and an attending psychologist at the Benioff Children’s Hospital Child and Adolescent Gender Clinic. Her work with—and advocacy for—gender creative children has been widely covered, including by The New York Times, the Huffington Post, and NPR. She has been featured on the Los Angeles Times online, Wired online, and has appeared on Anderson, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and The Today Show.
EDGARDO J. MENVIELLE, MD, MSHS, is the director of the Gender and Sexuality Development Program and of the Gender and Sexuality Advocacy and Education Program in the Psychiatry Department of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He started a national outreach group for parents of gender-variant children in 1998, and later a gender and sexuality development clinic. He is also an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at The George Washington University. An internationally recognized authority on childhood and adolescent gender and sexuality, Dr. Menvielle has been quoted in the New York Times and Newsweek. He lives in Washington, D.C
“I got particularly absorbed in a book that had just been released titled Gender Born, Gender Made by Diane Ehrensaft, PhD, which was written as a guidebook for raising healthy gender-nonconforming children. I swear Ehrensaft is the patron saint of kids who don't conform to traditional gender norms. She should be celebrated with a day off from work and school; a Saint Diane medal worn by families with gender-creative loved ones; a mural painted of her portrayed as a Pied Piper type with a gaggle of kids of varying gender representations following happily behind her; or whatever it is good people do to honor their beloved protectors.”
—Lori Duron in Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son
“This is an outstanding reference—an indispensible guide for those providing care for gender-nonconforming youth. Dr. Ehrensaft eloquently presents evidence to support her enlightened and impassioned plea to advocate for the ‘true gender self’ of all children.”
—Stephen M. Rosenthal, MD, professor of pediatrics, director, Pediatric Endocrine Clinics, University of California, San Francisco
“Courageous and clear, this book tells gender like it is—with real advice for those brave parents who are helping their transgender children to lead the 21st-century world toward an understanding of what it means to be fully human. Gender Born, Gender Made is a must-read for anyone who wants to comprehend the function and importance of gender in American culture, and learn how we can break gender's irrational stranglehold on the human spirit.”
—Jamison Green, PhD, educator, policy consultant, and author of Becoming a Visible Man
“Dr. Ehrensaft uses her own experience and the narratives of her patients to provide a glimpse into the obstacles that children with gender dysphoria and their families face. Their strengths are reflected in their stories. This provocative book will be helpful for parents, teachers, and clinicians working with children along the continuum of gender expression. These are children who, like all children, do not want to adapt to the expectations of others, but wish to be embraced for who they are.”
—Cynthia J. Telingator, MD, child and adult psychiatrist; faculty member, Cambridge Health Alliance; and assistant professor, Harvard Medical School
“This book provides a creative approach in the evolution of our understanding of gender nonconforming children, a thoughtful way forward from oppression towards affirmation. There is important information here for all who care about the quality of life for all children and their families.”
—Catherine Tuerk, APRN, cofounder and senior consultant, Gender and Sexual Advocacy and Education Program, Children's National Medical Center
“In Gender Born, Gender Made, Dr. Ehrensaft issues a clear and compelling call to parents and professionals in support of children living outside of society’s narrow gender expectations. Building on her vast experience working with children, families, and professionals, she beckons all of us to expand our traditional notions of gender, challenging us to create affirming spaces in which children can discover and celebrate their authentic selves. Hers is a model of gender acceptance and inclusion, not only for children pushing the boundaries of gender, but for all children simply wishing to be themselves.”
—Joel Baum, MS, director of education and training, Gender Spectrum