“Am I Doing the Right Thing?”: Pathways to Parenting a Gender Variant Child

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Gender variant (GV) children have a subjective sense of gender identity and/or preferences regarding clothing, activities, and/or playmates that are different from what is culturally normative for their biological sex. Despite increases in rates of GV children and their families presenting at clinics, there is little research on how raising a GV child affects the family as a whole or how families make decisions regarding their care. This study took an ecological-transactional framework to explore the question, "what is the experience of parents who raise a GV or transgender child?" Eight mothers and three fathers of GV male and female children (ages 5-13) referred through a GV support group participated in interviews. Transcripts were analyzed using an adaptation of grounded theory analysis. These parents attempted to pave the way to a nonstigmatized childhood for their GV child, typically through two pathways: rescuing the child from fear of stigma and hurt or accepting GV and advocating for a more tolerant world. Many participants used both pathways to different degrees or shifted paths over time, and the paths selected were related to parents' own understanding of GV and their experiences and backgrounds as well as characteristics of the children they were parenting and the communities they inhabited. Limitations, clinical implications, and future directions are discussed.


E-publication ahead of print: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25639568.


Family Process