How to support children identifying as non-binary


Sam Smith has revealed he identifies as non-binary saying he feels “like a woman sometimes” and has considered having a sex change.

During an interview with Jameela Jamil on Instagram TV, the British singer spoke about listening to conversations about being non-binary and realising that is how he identified.

“When I saw the word ‘non-binary’, ‘genderqueer’, and I read into it, and I heard these people speaking I was like, ‘F***, that is me’,” he told the presenter.

“I’m not male or female, I think I flow somewhere in between. It’s all on the spectrum,” he continued.

He added that he had always resented being “feminine in many ways” and describes being non-binary as being “your own special creation”.

But, what exactly does it mean to be non-binary? And how can parents help explain the term to their little ones and support children who do identify as non-binary?

What does it mean to be non-binary?

Sam Smith described the term as being a “mixture of all different things”, but being non-binary can mean different things to different people.

People who identify as non-binary may identify as a combination of different genders or as none at all, as the National Centre for Transgender Equality explains.

“People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common,” it states.

Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender and more.

“Non binary is the term used by people who do not identify with traditionally binary (male or female) roles, instead they take a more fluid approach to their gender,” explains Dr Helen Webberley who runs GenderGP.co.uk, a website providing healthcare, support and information for transgender, non-binary and gender questioning individuals and those who care for them.

“Sometimes a non binary person may feel more male, sometimes more female, or they may find themselves somewhere in the middle.”

Dr Webberley says some people are aware of this ‘difference’ from a very early age but often they are not quite sure what it means for them or how to explain it to others, which can make things confusing for everyone involved.

“A person’s non binary status is  often  expressed in their  choice of clothing and a preference for gender non specific language and lifestyle choices,” she continues. 

READ MORE: Non-binary artist free bleeds in public to show world periods aren’t just for women

“Names and pronouns can cause difficulties as the use of ‘he’ or ‘she’ just doesn’t feel right for the non binary person, equally, the often preferred pronouns of non binary people: ‘they’ and ‘them’, can feel strange for others to use when referring to an individual,” she adds. 

How to support a child who identifies as non-binary [Photo: Getty

How can parents support children who identify as non-binary?

Historically we often assumed that everyone is either biologically male or female, but over the years we have become increasingly aware that not all children feel they are the sex or gender that matches their birth sex.

But thinking outside those traditional girl/boy boxes can be quite daunting for some parents, and often they are unsure how to support children in their gender or non-gender journeys.  

“As a young person develops, the best support that can be given is  to allow them to explore their gender identity and gender expression in whatever way sits best with them,” advises Dr Webberley.

“Listen. Do not dismiss their feelings – just because this is not something you have come across before does not mean it is not valid. 

 

“Informing yourself is an excellent way to begin to understand what it means to be non binary.  There are plenty of excellent resources available including: mermaids.org,” she adds. 

READ MORE: Parent defends decision to raise one-year-old as gender neutral ‘theyby’

Jennifer Toll, Psychologist and Founder of NotJustAPrincess.co.uk advises parents to always offer their children all the options.

“Try not to be limited by your own preconceived ideas about what the genders should do or be,” she says.

“Treat kids as little humans before they are anything else. It also really helps to keep talking to your children about how they feel. Supporting, listening and making any choice feel OK and comfortable can be really helpful and empowering for them.”

Dr Webberley has provided some tips on how to support children who are questioning their gender.

– Be ready to understand, listen and hear what your child is trying to explain to you. 

– Read up as much as you can so that you can help your child and answer other people’s questions. 

– Prepare some responses and answers for when you may be challenged on the validity of your child’s non-binary gender identity. 

– Become a fierce advocate for your child at home, in school and in town. 

– Let them know that you support them wherever they are and whatever they are feeling.

READ MORE: School children to be taught ‘boys can have periods too’ in new sex education move

The conversation surrounding gender in childhood has been receiving more attention recently.

Last year a parent’s explanation to their child about what it means to identify as non-binary w ent viral on Twitter, with many people impressed with the message of acceptance.

And back in 2017, musician Paloma Faith hit headlines after announcing she would be raising her baby as gender neutral.

She later opened up to Yahoo UK in an exclusive interview where she explained what this meant for her.

“The singer isn’t raising her child without telling them their gender; instead, she simply wants to ’empower’ her child by not giving them gendered toys or clothing.

“It’s wrong to constrain your child to a gender stereotype,” she explains. “A child just needs to be who they are and not labelled. My nephews always had a pushchair and a doll, growing up, and they’re kind boys with a lot of empathy.”

The NHS has a great guide to parents supporting children through gender issues. 

There is also a wide range of information and support on the GIDS website.



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