Live Blog From The Gender Spectrum Conference!

I’m blogging, Facebooking and tweeting live from the 2013 Gender Spectrum Conference, so check back here throughout the weekend for updates – which I’ll be posting to the top of the page, not the bottom.  🙂

7/14/13 at 4:40 p.m. — My favorite workshop of the conference was Diane Ehrensaft’s Understanding and Supporting Siblings of Gender Diverse Children and Youth.

My Notes:

It takes a family to launch a gender nonconforming child…but, that’s not necessarily what a sibling wants to do or how they want to spend their time.  Are we asking siblings to step outside their comfort zone and/or do too much?

Two important jobs of a parent are to help the child be their authentic self and to keep them safe.  When you are raising a gender diverse child, sometimes it feels like those two jobs are at odds.

Siblings are an often forgotten — but critical — part of the family support system. They outlive the parents.  They are part of the same generation.   And, they need support too.

Siblings can be that child’s best ally or worse foe, depending on the circumstances.

Sometimes the sibling has the ability to “out” their gender diverse sibling.  They hold a lot of power.  What will they do with that power?  Are they being asked to keep a huge family secret?  Is that fair?

Siblings typically want to help, but they don’t know what to do or say and that can lead them to feel inadequate.

Siblings can grow resentful of all the focus on gender.

What do siblings need?

  • Empathy about their own anxieties, confusions and vulnerabilities.
  • A place where they can air their own feelings out independently.  They need their own space and often don’t get it.
  • A dialogue between only the siblings (with an adult as a listener).  The siblings talk honestly.  How does it feel to be gender diverse?  How does it feel to have a gender diverse sibling?
  • A toolkit.  What will they say and/or do when they get various questions and reactions from other kids?

7/14/13 at 3:47 p.m. — I attended a workshop put on by the Human Rights Campaign.

A while ago, the HRC surveyed 10,030 LGBT identified youth between the ages of 13 and 17 and issued the findings in a report titled  “Growing up LGBT in America.”

You can access the report here;

From that original report, two other reports were compiled and issued recently.

The Coming Out Experience for LGBT Youth;

Supporting and Caring for our Latino LGBT Youth;

Now, they’ve announced that there will be a third report.  And it’s about gender and the emerging self-definitions young people are using to label their own gender.  I got a sneak peek at some of the findings.

Here are some interesting things that I can share:

Of the 10,030 LGBT identified youth who were surveyed 925 identified as “”transgender or gender other.”

Of those 925, 89% reported that they are living with members of their family.  Where are the other 11% of these 13 to 17 year olds living?  As a mom, that worries me.

From those 925 “transgender or gender other” youth, 18 gender categories emerged as the youth self-defined their gender. Here are the categories:

  • Gender queer  (37% of participants)
  • Androgynous (16% of participants)
  • Gender fluid (9% of participants)
  • Bigender
  • General non-binary
  • Both
  • Other female
  • Other male
  • Gender as object
  • Third gender
  • Middle
  • Questioning
  • Genderless
  • General person
  • Neutral
  • None
  • Neither
  • Unknown

That’s all I can offer you for now.  The HRC’s Gender Report is in the final stages and will be available this fall.  I can’t wait.

7/13/13 at 3:45 p.m. — I spoke today on the Parent Empowerment Panel: Working With Schools In Service Of My Gender Diverse Student with Johanna Eager from Welcoming Schools.  She provides professional development to schools and school districts that are interested in implementing Welcoming Schools by using their tools, resources and lessons.  It’s a project of the HRC and, better yet, it’s free to districts!


Me. Speaking.

Also on the panel was Lisa Keating, the mother of an eight year old son who blurs the lines between boy and girl.  She is also the founder and executive director of My Purple Umbrella.  The mission of “My Purple Umbrella” is to provide a fun, loving, safe and creative environment for gender independent children 13 and under through play. They also provide a support network for families and caretakers.  Check it out at

7/13/13 at 3:04 p.m. — Attended The Biology of Gender Workshop led by Stephen M. Rosenthal, MD.

Dr. Rosenthal is a pediatric doctor at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and director of endocrine clinics at UCSF and led an effort to create a Child and Adolescent Gender Center to treat the condition known as gender identity disorder and to offer medical and psychological care.

Gender Identity Disorder is now called Gender Dysphoria.

Core Diagnostic Criteria:

  • Persistent desire to be the other gender or insistence that s/he is the other gender.
  • Clinically significant emotional distress.
  • No concurrent physical “intersex” condition.

Other Things I Learned: 

How common is the transgender condition?  Not rare.  1 in 12,000.

Children of parents who pressure them to conform to “traditional gender norms” are almost four times more likely to attempt suicide and use drugs.

* * *

The first workshop I attended was Parenting for Greater Freedom of Gender Expression and Experience.

Workshop leader Abigale Ada Grace introduced herself and then said:

“I’m female body and female born and I’m comfortable in that.  But I don’t feel comfortable as a ‘girl.’”

Yes!  This!

Things I Learned:

  • Your Gender Experience is what you take in. What you observe.  What you experience.  It’s the reactions to your gender expression that you notice and absorb.  You don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to your Gender Experience.
  • When another parent cries as they struggle with their child’s gender identity, I cry too.  I should have packed tissues.

About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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12 Responses to Live Blog From The Gender Spectrum Conference!

  1. Did you happen to catch last week’s what would you do? There was a scenario with a boy getting a manicure.

  2. Parker says:
    This is a link for an article on Slate magazine today that is really heartwarming.

  3. Don Kensler says:

    It’s good to see professionals talking in terms of a gender spectrum and not just a binary world of boy/girl.

    I’ve always presented as stereotypically male, although my choices in toys as a child were more androgynous (i loved playing with my cousins’ Barbie and Ken dolls as well as with train sets and building sets). I experimented with cross dressing but realized it wasn’t for me.

    There was, however (without going into detail), one modification I wanted since I started puberty that puts me on the not-quite-male part of the spectrum. Once that was done (when I was 48), I’ve been quite happy with my physical self.

    I can only hope that in the future there will be professionals who recognize that there are those of us who aren’t entirely comfortable in our birth bodies, but who don’t want or need to go through a complete gender reassignment, can reassure us as teens that we’re understood, and tell us that once we’re 18 we can bring our physical selves in line with our mental conceptions of ourselves.

  4. MM says:

    Okay, well, a picture of you speaking. Nice. But I want to know what you SAID……
    Can we have cliff notes?

  5. Jw says:

    Regarding what to ask Jo Olsen. I think you will be one of the most knowledgeable and accepting parents she has ever met with. Ask the questions you have been afraid to discuss with anyone else.

  6. Codi says:

    Thank you (and everyone at the conference) for working so hard to make the world a better, safer, and happier place (especially for children). You are doing such important work.

  7. MM says:

    Re: Jo Olsen: I would ask her what (if anything) would help you and/ or CJ to have clarity about gender. If I were his parent I would want him to lead. And he appears to identify consistently as male. I would want to ask Ms Olsen’s impressions of this. Some very young kids are clear they are other gender from very young. Then there are people who apparently become aware of desire to transition much later on. Is there anything more to do (in her opinion) than remain open and supportive? Can gender be evaluated in some way? Or can people be helped to clarity earlier in some way?
    Of course, I would also ask her what she recommends to support CJ as a boy who likes girl stuff.
    I can only imagine that more and more gender creative people in CJs life would help him. If I were his parent I think I would hesitate to get him involved in going to drag shows, meeting effeminate gay men, or other intentional explorations to get to know GLBT people of many kinds. I would think that might be pushing him, and I would be unclear where the line is. Still, it seems to me that this could help him…… I’m thinking of his reaction to the male ballet dancer at his dance school!!! So, I would ask Ms. Olsen about this. Does she recommend taking him to see the male ballet troupe (the name escapes me right now) that cross dress? To what degree would more actively seeking out opportunities help? At what age would it be good to go to GLBT events more with CJ? Is there too much of a good thing? Any risks? Any resources she suggests?
    Also: Any developmental stages or markers to watch for? What issues may be next for CJ (or for you) this year or in the next 3 to 5 years?
    And then I want to ask her about concepts or methods to teach CJ for emotional and physical safety. Is self defense training a good idea? At what age? Are there concepts to teach regarding people who stare or make fun or taunt? Are there programs she recommends for you or for him?

    Another thing that comes to mind for me is art schools. At what age or in what circumstances would taking CJ to a private art-focused school make sense? Is it a possibility? Any way to get help financing such a thing?

    Gee, I’m full of questions.
    Please know that I think you are doing an awesome job as CJs mom, and none of my questions change that!

  8. Dawn Jordan says:

    I am and have always been impressed with your drive to achive gender equality for everyone.Never stop, the world needs you

  9. Ally says:

    Nice to see a picture of you! So somehow you manage to be the best mom ever, formidable advocate for the LBGT community AND look like a super model?? I’m totally impressed.

  10. That good work Jessica. I learnt about this conference too late, so no way of attending. Thanks for keeping your readers posted on what’s going on.
    PS: the sentence You don’t really have much of a choice when it comes to your Gender Experience’ somewhat intrigues me. One may not have a choice, because society is so much used to seeing uniformity in gender. But, having said that, affirming one’s gender plurality/ies, and extending support to those seeking to affirm varying gender experiences are steps that make one’s gender experience unique. Striving to promote such an approach is the challenge before us.
    On a personal note, I would prefer a positivist take, and think that I DO have a choice when it comes to my gender experience, because I affirm what I am, and struggle, despite all obstacles, to live my life the way I have chosen to live it.
    Enjoy the conference!

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