“Trans-Affirmative Parenting: Raising Kids Across the Gender Spectrum” by Elizabeth Rahilly— How Parents Support Their Transgender Children

Rahilly, Elizabeth. “Trans-Affirmative Parenting: Raising Kids Across the Gender Spectrum”, NYU Press, 2020.

How Parents Support Their Transgender Children

Amos Lassen

Elizabeth Rahiily’s “Trans-Affirmative Parenting: Raising Kids Across the Gender Spectrum” is a collection of first-hand accounts of how parents support their transgender children.  The world has changed greatly and we now have a new generation of parents and families who are identifying, supporting, and raising transgender children. Through fascinating stories, interviews with parents of children who identify across the gender spectrum and with doctors, mental health practitioners, educators, and advocates who support their journeys, we get a look at this new world. 

Rahilly explores how we have come to terms with new ideas about gender, sexuality, identity, and the body and she examines the complex deliberations about nonbinary possibilities and medical interventions. Above all, we see how parents can best advocate for transgender awareness and move beyond the traditional gendered expectations that were once a part of life. Child-centered, child-driven parenting is as central to this new trans-affirmative paradigm as is growing LGBTQ awareness. Today, we live at a time of trans-awareness yet we are always in need of better understanding transgender children and the parents who raise them.

Rahilly  analyzes the struggles and breakthroughs of parents whose children are transgender and gender-non-conforming kids and how they raise them. We see that there is a cultural shift toward trans-affirmative parenting. Ethical and supportive parenting today often requires learning to parent beyond normative and usual expectations for how children’s lives ought to be or how their bodies should exist in today’s world. Rahilly has learned from these that this is not always comfortable because of the consideration of “the biomedicalization of trans and gender-non-conforming kids as well as their various characterizations–spanning from diversity to disability and defect.” Additionally Rahilly challenges  the orthodoxy that surrounds gender and sexuality as totally distinct categories of experience and identity. Constructions of childhood gender are opening up yet structural constraints and systems of power do not help.

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