Some advice for all people working with children and young people. Three simple words that can help us all make life better in many different ways especially when young people or other adults do not live within the norms that we may have grown used to.
Accept Adapt Achieve
Today I learned, with some sadness, that the gender identity of a young person was being pathologised by a professional who had concluded that the young person’s gender identity was partly influenced by childhood trauma.
How was gender even open to ‘diagnosis’?
How did this professional feel equipped to make such a statement?
What positive impact could this possibly have on the young person?
The young person does not identify as their birth assigned gender. Lots of people don’t. Birth assigned gender is commonly binary and gender by its very social and emotional nature is not. The young person’s gender is THEIR gender it is not more 'fault' in them than that of any cis gendered person.
If the young person had identified as cis gendered would the professional have concluded that was because of childhood trauma? I doubt it. Maybe their training or professional status or even personal attitudes influenced their feelings towards the young person- I couldn’t say as I am not that person.
The professional, through their ‘supportive’ diagnoses, had given one simple message: you are like this because something bad happened to you; you are a bit broken. How can that be a positive and affirming message?
The professional had not made comment on the trauma of living in a society that consistently fails to accept or even begin to celebrate people who are not their binary birth assigned gender.
I write as a cis gendered person and do not in any way claim to speak as representative of trans people. I write as a professional giving advice to other professionals.
Gender identity belongs to the person who’s identity it is. It is not open to discussion, it is not something to pathologise and it does not require diagnosis. Simple as it may sound: The person before IS the person before you.
ADAPT TO WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE TELL YOU
(they are not lying or engaged in some fad- I am sure their life is hard enough already)
Adapt your thinking. Adapt to different world views. Adapt your information and resources. Adapt your professional approach. Adapt the prior knowledge you have, even if it contravenes acceptance it may be useful to know and question.
As a professional, you will achieve far more with young people when you accept them. Young people will flourish in an atmosphere of acceptance. Rather than looking at young people as ‘broken’ and trying to fix them, work with them from where they are and who they are to support their aspirations.
Thanks for reading