Beyond Binary.

You look in the mirror with disgust.

You think to yourself; Why do I look so...wrong?

You mentally compartmentalize the hideous growth between your legs and visualize a happy blonde girl.

You close your eyes so tightly it makes your eyes water.

You’ve tried on make-up, and your Mum’s shoes numerous times.

The comments from your dad when he caught you left you feeling... wrong... alone …lost.

You think to yourself; I’m not this person in this reflection.

I am neither a boy nor a girl - I am me.

Children are not born knowing what it means to be a boy or a girl; they learn it from their parents, older children and others around them. This learning process begins early. As soon as the doctor announces – based on observing the newborn’s external sex organs – “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl,” the world around a child begins to teach these lessons. Whether it’s the sorting of blue clothes and pink clothes, “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” or telling young girls they’re “pretty” and boys they’re “strong.” It continues into puberty and adulthood as social expectations of masculine and feminine expression and behaviour often become more rigid. But gender does not simply exist in those binary terms; gender is more of a spectrum, with all individuals expressing and identifying with varying degrees of both masculinity and femininity. Transgender people identify along this spectrum, but also identify as a gender that is different than the one, they were assigned at birth.

At some point, all children will engage in behaviour associated with different genders – girls will play with trucks, boys will play with dolls, girls will hate wearing dresses and boys will insist on wearing them – and gender nonconforming behaviour does not necessarily mean that a child is a transgender. That said, sometimes it does – with some children identifying as another gender than the one they were assigned by the time they are toddlers.

The general rule for determining whether a child is a transgender (rather than gender nonconforming or gender variant) is if the child is consistent, insistent, and persistent about their transgender identity. In other words, if your 4-year-old son wants to wear a dress or says he wants to be a girl once or twice, he probably is not transgender; but if your child who was assigned male at birth repeatedly insists over several months that she is a girl, then she is probably transgender. Naturally, there are endless variations in the ways that children express themselves, so the best option, if you think your child might be transgender, is to consult a gender therapist.

Transgender people come from all walks of life. They are dads and mums, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. They are your colleagues and your neighbours. They are 7-year-old children and 70-year-old grandparents. They are a diverse community, representing all racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as faith backgrounds.

Although the word “transgender” and our modern definition of it only came into use in the late 20th century, people who would fit under this definition have existed in every culture throughout recorded history.

Despite the increased visibility of transgender celebrities like actress Laverne Cox or more recently singer Sam Smith, many people still don’t personally know anyone who is transgender – but the number who do is growing rapidly.

In the HRC Foundation’s 2012 survey of LGBTQ youth, about 10 percent of respondents identified themselves either as “transgender” or as “other gender,” and wrote in identities like “genderqueer,” “gender-fluid” or “androgynous.” This suggests that a larger portion of this generation’s youth are identifying somewhere on the broad transgender spectrum.

In many ways, transgender people are just like cisgender (non-transgender) people; but because of the social stigma surrounding our transgender identity, our community faces a unique set of challenges.

Currently, Primary school staff are advised to support a younger child who is exploring their gender identity - for instance, by wearing clothes stereotypically associated with the gender they identify with - most of the guidance is aimed at post-primary schools.

"It is important that the young person feels supported and that their best interests are promoted," the EA guidance states.

“If the transgender young person wishes to use a separate or gender-neutral toilet or changing facilities, the school should facilitate this.”

Teachers are also advised that they should respect a transgender pupil's wishes concerning what name they are called.

This includes non-binary pupils who do not identify as male or female and may want to be referred to as "they" rather than "he" or "she".

Everyone — cisgender and transgender — must work together to create communities that are welcoming to trans and gender-nonconforming people. Everyone deserves to live in a world free of violence and discrimination, including those whose gender identity and expression don’t match their assigned sex. Everyone can play a part in supporting transgender people and making communities safer and more inclusive.

Ways to Start Supporting Your Transgender Child

• Always use the child’s preferred gender pronouns and preferred names.

• Be your child’s advocate – call out transphobia when you see it and ask that others respect your child’s identity.

• Educate yourself about the concerns facing transgender youth and adults.

• Encourage your child to stand up for themselves when it is safe to do so.

• Assure your child that they have your unconditional love and support.

What can we do to better support the Transgender community, loved ones, friends and family?

You can't tell if someone is transgender just by looking.

Transgender people don't look any certain way or come from any one background. Many transgender people do not appear "visibly trans," meaning they are not perceived to be transgender by others.

It is not possible to look around a room and "see" if there are any transgender people. You should assume that there may be transgender people at any gathering.

Don't make assumptions about a transgender person's sexual orientation.

Gender identity is different than sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is about who we're attracted to. Gender identity is about our sense of being a man or a woman, or outside that gender binary. Transgender people can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight.

If you don't know what pronouns to use, listen first.

If you're unsure which pronoun a person uses, listen first to the pronoun other people use when referring to them. Someone who knows the person well will probably use the correct pronoun. If you must ask which pronoun the person uses, start with your own. For example, "Hi, I'm Alex and I use the pronouns he and him. What about you?" Then use that person's pronoun and encourage others to do so. If you accidentally use the wrong pronoun, apologize quickly and sincerely, then move on. The bigger deal you make out of the situation, the more uncomfortable it is for everyone.

Don't ask a transgender person what their "real name" is.

For some transgender people, being associated with their birth name is a tremendous source of anxiety, or it is simply a part of their life they wish to leave behind. Respect the name a transgender person is currently using. If you happen to know the name someone was given at birth but no longer uses, don't share it without the person's explicit permission. Similarly, don't share photos of someone from before their transition, unless you have their permission.

Understand the differences between "coming out" as lesbian, gay, or bisexual and "coming out" as transgender.

"Coming out" to other people as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is typically seen as revealing a truth that allows other people to know your authentic self. The LGB community places great importance and value on the idea of being "out" to be happy and whole. When a transgender person has transitioned and is living their life as their authentic self--that is their truth. The world now sees them as who they truly are. Unfortunately, it can often feel disempowering for a transgender person to disclose to other people that they are transgender. Sometimes when other people learn a person is trans, they no longer see the person as "real." Some people may choose to publicly discuss their gender history to raise awareness and make cultural change, but please don't assume that a transgender person must disclose that they are transgender to feel happy and whole.

Be careful about confidentiality, disclosure, and "outing."

Some transgender people feel comfortable disclosing their gender history, and some do not. A transgender person's gender history is personal information and it is up to them to share it with others. Do not casually share this information, speculate, or gossip about a person you know or think is transgender. Not only is this an invasion of privacy, but it also can have negative consequences in a world that are very intolerant of gender diversity. Transgender people can lose jobs, housing, friends, or even their lives when other people find out about their gender history.

Respect the terminology a transgender person uses to describe their identity.

Transgender people use many different terms to describe their experiences. Respect the term (transgender, transsexual, non-binary, genderqueer, etc.) a person uses to describe themselves. If a person is not sure of which identity label fits them best, give them the time to figure it out for themselves and don't tell them which term you think they should use. You wouldn't like your identity to be defined by others, so please allow others to define themselves.

Be patient with a person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity.

A person who is questioning or exploring their gender identity may take some time to figure out what's true for them. They might, for example, use a name or pronoun, and then decide at a later time to change the name or pronoun again. Do your best to be respectful and use the name and pronoun requested.

Understand there is no "right" or "wrong" way to transition, and that it is different for every person.

Some transgender people access medical care like hormones and surgeries as part of their transition to align their bodies with their gender identity. Some transgender people want their authentic gender identity to be recognized without hormones or surgery. Some transgender people cannot access medical care, hormones, and/or surgeries due to a lack of financial resources or access to healthcare. A transgender person's identity is not dependent on medical procedures or their physicality. Accept that if someone tells you they are transgender, they are.

Avoid backhanded compliments and "helpful" tips.

While you may intend to be supportive, comments like the following can be hurtful or even insulting:

"I would have never known you were transgender. You look so pretty."

"You look just like a real woman."

"She's so gorgeous, I would have never guessed she was transgender."

"He's so hot. I'd date him even though he's transgender."

"You're so brave."

"You'd pass so much better if you wore less/more make-up, had a better wig, etc."

"Have you considered a voice coach?"

Challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes in public spaces, including LGB spaces.

You may hear anti-transgender comments from anti-LGBTQ activists, but you may also hear them from LGB people. Someone may think that because they're gay, it's ok for them to use certain words or tell jokes about transgender people. It's important to challenge anti-transgender remarks or jokes whenever they’re said and no matter who says them.

Peace and Love to you all

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