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Whether you’re boy, girl, masculine, feminine, or a bit of both, young people express their gender in different ways, and figuring out what it means to them is an important part of growing up.
Gender identity is our own personal sense of which gender we are. That is, whether we identify ourselves as a boy, girl, masculine, feminine, neither, or a bit of both. Everyone has a gender identity. It's a part of who we are, and figuring out what it means for us is an important part of growing up.
Sometimes gender is the same as the sex people are assigned at birth. For example, someone who was born a girl might grow up and still know that they are, and want to be a woman. Sometimes, it doesn’t match up - some people feel as though they should be the opposite gender, or a mix of the two, and some don’t identify with either gender.
Transgender, trans*, genderqueer, and gender diverse are a few terms that describe when a person's gender doesn’t match up with their assigned sex. People use a range of other words to describe their own identity. Most cultures have terms for gender diverse people, such as whakawahine, tangata ira tane, and takatāpui in Māori, or fa’afaafine in Samoan.
Just as people might choose to express their gender through different clothes, music, hairstyles or social groups, someone who is gender diverse might also choose to use a different name and different pronouns (he/him/his, she/her/hers, their/them/theirs) to more accurately express who they are.
However a person chooses to express or define who they are, be respectful of this. Your acceptance, support, and encouragement will help them to be the best version of themselves that they can be.
People who are gender diverse can and do live happy, fulfilling lives. This is made a lot easier when the people around them are encouraging, supportive, and loving.
A lack of support or acceptance from whānau and family, feeling afraid or being judged, bullied, and discriminated against can really hurt someone. When gender diverse young people are excluded or rejected, they can experience much higher rates of depression, anxiety and distress than their peers.
Discrimination against transgender people can come in many forms, and often goes unnoticed or ignored. Here are some things to look out for that can make being gender diverse much more difficult:
If you notice these things happening in your school or community, you can talk to the people in charge. Explain how discrimination affects the wellbeing of gender diverse teens and ask for their support. Speak out, show your support and stand up for transgender communities.
A young person who is gender diverse might need your support if they:
Some people might choose to say nothing, and it might not be obvious they’re feeling bad. You might just sense something is wrong. Check in about it no matter what you think the issue might be. Make sure they know you won't judge them about anything, including issues about gender and identity.
When our friends and whānau are caring, respectful, and supportive it feels a lot easier to express ourselves and be comfortable with who we are. Having a supportive family and whānau is the most important factor in the wellbeing of transgender young people.
If someone has told you they are transgender, be respectful of this. It may take you some to get used to the change, but they are still the same person you know and love and your aroha and acceptance will affect them the most.
Here are some ways you can help them to be the best version of themselves they can be:
It's been shown that family acceptance and support significantly reduces depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts that transgender youth experience. Your acceptance and encouragement of your child is vital to their health and wellbeing.
RainbowYOUTH is a charitable organisation providing support, information, advocacy, and education for queer and trans* young people (aged between 13 and 28), their friends and whānau, and those who work with queer and trans* youth.
The I'm Local project aims to help queer & gender diverse youth all over Aotearoa to feel valued, recognised and supported in their local communities. It includes a region-by-region map of all the queer and gender diverse support groups for young people across the country.
Confidential Helpline: 0800 688 5463
OUTLine provides confidential and gay-affirming GLBT telephone support and face to face counselling.
Supporting parents and whānau through the difficulties that often arise in the “coming out” process. Navigating these difficulties together by creating awareness, acceptance, validation, support, safe homes, and developing stronger family bonds resulting in better supported and better equipped parents.
The Village Collective aims to support Pasefika communities with sexual and reproductive health needs, and supports young Pasefika people to make great decisions for themselves through mentoring and education programmes.
A print and video resource for takatāpui (Māori who are whakawāhine, tangata ira tāne, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer), their whānau and communities, sharing stories and information about identity, wellbeing and suicide prevention.
A transgender-led organisation in New Zealand. The Gender Minorities Aotearoa website includes a national database of information and resources, to link gender diverse people with the services they need.
Information about the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and how to support someone who feels distress or discomfort because their gender identity (their personal sense of identification as male, female, neither, both, or somewhere in between) does not match their body, or the gender that others see them as.
Families like mine is a multimedia guide developed by Australian organisation Beyond Blue that offers practical advice to families of young gender diverse people, same-sex attracted and bisexual people, and those who are questioning their sexuality or gender identity.