When Dealing with Gender Identity within the “Family Team”; How to Recognise it and Handle it with Love

By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan

yellowbrick accredited provider


I was driven to write this article after reading two articles in one week in national newspapers about gender identity and realising that it’s becoming a “big issue” that is still very unfamiliar to a lot of people and thus can cause a lot of uncertainty. I would first like to clarify that the term “transgender” is an “umbrella term” that could refer to a lot of related identities”. When a person feels as if they do not have the rightidentity” the DSM, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, refers to this as gender dysphoria. I want to make it clear that I am not writing from the point of view of an Expert of this particular topic, rather as someone who since discovering about gender identity by watching several documentaries and reading a lot of articles about it over the years I came to care a lot about what people experiencing gender identities can go through. I also feel that being in a position where I’m constantly learning and developing of my area of expertise that this has enabled me to put together an outline of how I would recommend dealing with gender identitycorrectly” within the “Family-Team”. I will expand on what I mean by “correctly” later on in the article. 🙂


First I would like to touch on how I first discovered that “gender identity” even existed. I was in my late teens and going through a phase of watching Oprah Winfrey and Ricki Lake – they had a lot of interesting “life topics” on at the time – and one was about gender identity. I remember feeling stunned. I had always taken it as a “given” that if you were a woman on the outside, you would feel like a woman on the inside and vice versa for men. Life had definitely taught me that when something you value/ is of practical use is taken away – no credit on your mobile phone (!) – you appreciate it so much more when you get it back/ back working! Never before had I considered extending gratitude to feel grateful for the fact I was a girl and I felt like a girl. Instantly this huge wave of gratitude flowed right through my body. 🙂


I would now just like to put forward to anyone who struggles to feel that empathy to try this simple exercise. Close your eyes and imagine that you are looking in a mirror. Think of someone of the opposite gender to yourself who you find very attractive; now open your eyes and imagine seeing that person in the mirror as you. Let me clarify that the reason I put forward to visualise someone you find attractive is that we can all smile at the thought of someone we find attractive – we may want to see that person standing next to us in the mirror, we don’t (or at least most of us don’t), want to be that person. That is how someone with gender dysphoria feels; “What am I doing in this body when I’m actually a girl/ boy”. Another point to help empathise here is that there is a personal development quote that you see regularly on social media that states; Be yourself; everyone else is taken”. For someone experiencing gender identity they’ve “ lostbefore they’ve started because they can never fully be themselves because being who they are means being someone of the opposite sex. Even if they go the full way with operations; it’s not the same as when “nature” gives it to you and they have to make a lot more compromises to be who they are, and I’ll expand on that throughout the article. With this in mind it’s definitely easier to have some empathy for what they’re feeling and what they go through. 🙂


I mentioned Oprah Winfrey and Ricki Lake earlier; well on one of their shows I distinctly remember a case of boy/ girl twins where the girl felt like a boy and the boy felt like a girl. Imagine that being twins they must have felt that their soul went into the wrong body? They didn’t actually want to have a full transgender procedure, however they both “presented themselves” as the opposite sex and sought homosexual relationships. Remember what I said about transgender being an umbrella term? – This is a form of gender identity. 🙂


Now I feel it’s important to talk about how to recognise someone who is experiencing true gender identity; believe me, I’ve watched/ read a lot of information about the subject from several different angles and it’s helped me to understand that there are certain gender identities that could be mistaken for gender dysphoria. When you consider what someone with this particular gender identity would potentially go through if they went for the full procedure of operations to change their gender; their feelings have to be identified correctly and the most important thing is that it has to come from them. I can already hear you say; “But wait Paula-Elizabeth, surely it would come from them? – No parent would just decide it for them?” Let me explain. 🙂


One of the articles I mentioned at the beginning was written by Celia Walden who writes for The Telegraph newspaper. Her article is entitled; “Five year old tomboys don’t need transgender treatment, just time”. She mentioned how her own daughter once suggested that it could be cool to be a boy and how through her experience as a parent she noticed how “faddy” (going through phases) children can be and that a passing comment said once shouldn’t be taken seriously. I once said myself as a child that I wanted to marry a girl; I remember thinking, “why did think that?” So the first point is that one passing comment does not necessarily mean that your child is experiencing gender identity feelings. 🙂


So how should you respond? I know that parents don’t want to feel as if they’re ignoring what their child is saying and passing it off as something not to be taken seriously because they’re a child. I definitely think that’s great that parents nowadays really want to consider their child’s feelings and points of view more than in times gone by. What I feel is important in relation to gender identity is that it has to be identified correctly, and that means that there should be consistent evidence that demonstrates a child’s wish to become the opposite sex. The way you find this out without unwittingly manipulating the child’s thoughts is by responding to comments that suggest your child is putting forward they feel like the opposite sex in a very casual way. This way you’re not jumping to conclusions and you’re also not being flippant or dismissive either. I would also like to put forward that the DSM have clear criteria as to what constitutes genuine gender identity. 🙂


Why is this important? It’s important because as Maria Montessori points outs; children come from nothing. They have no prior experience before they are born to compare with anything; the only things they know are what they’ve learnt in life since birth hence why it is so important to give them a true image of everything. Anyone who knows anything about feral children knows sadly how easy it is for a child to be misled and how a perfectly “normal child” can think they’re a dog, or a chicken if they’ve been left to survive amongst these animals. So if, in trying to show your child support, you immediately suggest that they’re experiencing gender identity that mean they need to seek transgender treatment; without knowing any different your child may agree when they’re not feeling this at all. If you then got too far down the path of transgender treatment before your child realised that they didn’t want it – this would really bring a lot of disruption to their life and your relationship with them. So the best response as I said is to be very casual and observe. 🙂


Maria Montessori discovered her whole teaching method and designed most of the materials from paying attention and observing how children responded to stimuli and learnt. So the best way to know your child’s true feelings about whether they do have genuine gender identity, or not is to pay attention to what they say and do, and see how many times they put forward these feelings and is it “back up” by behaviour that would suggest they feel like the opposite sex. Also, get a journal and write everything down. If they are a genuine case of gender identity it is far better when seeking treatment to present a journal full of evidence to support everything as opposed to just basing it on one observation. The legal age that a child can start to receive hormone blocking treatment in the UK is 16, so there is plenty of time if you’re concerned your five year old may have genuine gender identity feelings. 🙂


I would like to support this with what I read in the second article I mentioned at the beginning. A gender identity boy to girl who I will refer to as Lila for confidentiality was interviewed and she put forward that she was about ten when she discovered online that there was such a thing as “gender identity”. Lila spent five years researching it before telling anyone! Then put her feelings to her parents – who were surprised, yet supportive – and her teachers who all supported her. One statement she made was that she grew up on a farm in Wales were there was no knowledge of gender identity at all. When she was a “he”, she used to take Bratz dolls to school. Now I’m sorry to say this but boys and girls/ men and women do think and act differently. Being feminine and being masculine are both attractive and successful in different ways. So yes, taking a Bratz doll to school is definitely behaviour that supported Lila’s feelings. 🙂


Five years studying gender identity before telling anyone; this tells you that Lila’s case is most certainly genuine. Especially when you consider that her parents worked on a rural farm and had no idea gender identity even existed themselves. Can you see how there is no unwitting manipulation here? 🙂


I also feel that it’s relevant to mention here that I’ve watch a documentary about hermaphroditism that is related to gender identity. A true hermaphrodite is someone born with both male and female genitalia that are often under-developed. The documentary was putting forward that at the time (I was in my early twenties when I watched it) doctors considered that they needed to choose during infancy whether they should “make the childmale”, or “female”. What was happening is that they were “guessing wrongly” hence what prompted the documentary. I definitely feel that it’s best to “let nature decide”. You cannot possibly make such a huge decision for a child’s future without any supporting evidence for your decision. The best solution is to give a gender natural, like name, like Ashley, tell family and friends about the situation so they can provide extra support and pay close attention as your child is growing up as to what their tendencies and preferences are. Society can be so quick to want to “box” everyone into one category or another and sometimes that’s not possible. 🙂


Another significant point that this documentary bought up is that in guessing the gender incorrectly it produced a lot of homosexuals who in fact felt like heterosexuals of the opposite sex. Now I would just like to expand on this. Whether a person is homosexual or heterosexual is no issue in genuine cases; where it “becomes an issue” is when a gay man actual feel like a straight woman, or vice versa. The important point here is that homosexual people are happy with their “assigned gender” and just want to choose to have a relationship with a member of the same gender. In the same way a heterosexual person wants to have a relationship with a person of the opposite sex. Gender Identity is different; they actual feel like a member of the opposite sex, hence why it is so important to establish a genuine case. Remember the twins I mentioned earlier; they chose to stick with their assigned gender and have homosexual relationships. 🙂


Before I move on to how to deal with gender identity within the “Family-Team” I have one more vital piece of information to share that will really help you fully understand the condition. I remember vividly seeing a documentary where they put forward that scientists looked into the brain to see if there was anything they could find in a “male human brain” that was different to a “female human brain”. With a specimen brain from each gender they painstakingly sliced through it to see if there was a something different that would suggest that “genderwasn’t just a bodily factor. They actually had to do this twice before they found a small, but significantly different area in each brain that was connected to a person’s gender (I can’t remember how!). This was such a break-through as it demonstrated a biological reason for gender identity and it’s no surprise to guess that gender identity males have the “femalepart of the brain and vice versa. This is definitely information that should be more publically known as it really helps people to truly understandwhat’s going on” for people with gender dysphoria. 🙂


Now we’ve covered extensively how to recognise it I would like to talk about how to respond as a supportive and strongFamily-Team”. The most obvious thing is to be supportive. Most parents nowadays I feel would be; it’s not just parents who need to show support. In the article with Lila, they also interviewed an individual experiencing girl to boy gender identity who I will refer to as Jack for confidentiality. Jack had three siblings; two were supportive, one wasn’t. In a case like this I would like to put forward that I feel that you should definitely encourage all siblings to be supportive. Remember it’s a “big thing” for them to take in and they have to start readjusting themselves from relating to having a sister who is now a brother, or vice versa. So do the empathy exercise that I mentioned at the beginning with them to really help them empathise with what their sibling is feeling and really encourage unity. The reason being is that a person with true gender identity feelings is going to go ahead with transgender procedures regardless of support so it’s best to support them as oppose to creating more conflict and agony for everyone involved. 🙂


Now let’s just take a moment here to reflect on the importance of the transgender procedures to people with genuine gender identity. A boy to girl procedure involves having your “manhoodremoved. I’m sorry if this is disturbing to any readers yet this really shows you where their priorities lie; they would rather lose their “manhood” and risk any potentially negative reactions because the feelings of being the opposite sex are so strong. A boy, who feels like a boy I think we all know he would never do this! It’s the same with women to men; some have their womb removed that means they give up the ability to have their own children. This is how intrinsically important the procedure is to them. 🙂


So with this in mind please be supportive. Any siblings who are struggling with the situation; hold a “Family Teammeeting were you have plenty of time to discuss how each member of the family is feeling and how you can move forwards together as a team. I think Nelson Mandela sums things up nicely when he puts forward that where change” is necessary, education is what’s needed to bring about that change. This is an area of “life education” that as the parent you’re best placed to provide that education in a supportive and loving way to allFamily Team Membersinvolved. 🙂


One last point I would like to make is an appeal to people experiencing gender identity. One show of either Oprah Winfrey, or Ricki Lake was about people who had full transgender procedures and who wanted to meet a partner. Well as you can imagine to create hot talking points they had cases were people hadn’t been initially honest about having transgender procedures and disclosed this to the person they were dating on the show. As you can imagine this didn’t go down well especially with a man to woman who was dating a man. Sadly they mentioned a case that ended fatally for the one individual who hadn’t yet had the full procedure done. So I would like to make an appeal to be fully honest about your situation, because whereas some people will be turned off, there are plenty of people who wouldn’t. This may seem disheartening; to help you understand a little, in his book The Evolutionary of Desire, David Buss puts forward how the Darwinian theory of sexual selection although isn’t exclusive to how men and women chose a partner, is a factor. So it’s built in to varying extents to subconsciously choose a partner who will produce healthy offspring. All is not doomed because in a conversation with some single friends they put forward that some online dating profiles of men put forward that they were transgender friendly”. So be honest and the right person will come along. 🙂


It does seem to be easier for gender identity women to men. I think this is because women are generally better able to empathise being the sex biologically geared to care for the offspring. There was a documentary on about 10 years ago entitle “The Pregnant Male”. Well of course it was about a gender identity woman to man who legally had become male thought hadn’t had a hysterectomy and in order to have children with his wife (it was her second marriage and she had some biological children of her own) became pregnant with donor sperm. It was really odd to look at someone who looked fully male and see an obviously pregnant abdomen. His wife had injections to make her breasts milky – something you can only do if you’ve already had children – so she could breast-feed. 🙂


I hope this is helpful for anyone who is experiencing gender identity within the family. For more information please email me at: [email protected] or messaged me through Twitter/ Instagram @FamilyTeamCoach, or through Facebook/ LinkedIn at Paula-Elizabeth Jordan, thank-you. 🙂



Author Biography:

Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com


Paula-Elizabeth Jordan