Raising My Rainbow

Why Diane Ehrensaft is the Patron Saint of Gender Creative Kids

This is Diane Ehrensaft. If you see her, give her a hug from C.J. and me.

Diane Ehrensaft is the patron saint of kids who don’t conform to traditional gender norms. She should be celebrated with a day off of work/school; a Saint Diane medal to be worn by families with gender creative loved ones; a mural of her portrayed as a Pied Piper-type with a gaggle of kids of varying genders following happily behind her; or whatever it is good people do to honor their beloved patron saints.

Besides being the special guardian of gender creative children, Ehrensaft is a developmental and clinical psychologist who has, for the past 25 years, worked with gender nonconforming children and their families. She just released her latest book, which is titled Gender Born, Gender Made. Ehrensaft is a brainy broad.

By writing Gender Born, Gender Made, she hopes to “carve a path toward gender health for all the children and youth who go against the normative gender grain of our culture.”

She calls these children “gender creative” instead of the usual “gender variant” or “gender nonconforming.” Gender creative just sounds so much more pleasant and befitting of these special kids. I’ll use it from here forward.

Her book should be recommended reading for all parents-to-be; although it might scare first-timers, who probably haven’t even considered that their precious little peanut could be a boy who wants to be a girl, or vice versa, or both, or something even more unique.

When C.J. saw the book cover he said, "Look Mommy a boy like me!"

But, seriously, Gender Born, Gender Made should be required reading for all parents and family members even remotely involved in the life of a gender creative child.

Diane Ehrensaft can relate to parents of gender creative kids because she was one. Her grown son was gender creative and now identifies as gay.

She explains that “gender creative is a developmental position in which the child transcends the culture’s normative definitions of male/female to creatively interweave a sense of gender that come neither totally from the inside (the body, the psyche), nor totally from the outside (culture, others’ perceptions), but resides somewhere in between.”

She acknowledges the harm done to gender creative children, should they fall into the wrong hands. The wrong hands may belong to people in her profession, only a small number of which “are just beginning to embark on a long project of reexamining what it means to be a gender-healthy boy, girl or other in the twenty-first century.”

Her model for raising gender creative children “follows the child’s lead and goes where the child takes us. It assumes that the child most likely comes to us with his or her gender creativity intact, rather than being shaped after birth by hapless parents who have some gender-skewed agenda or are incapable of setting appropriate limits with their children and providing proper gender guidance.”

And, that is, of course, what I like most about Ehrensaft. She takes the blame off of the parents and makes a strong case for convincing others to do the same. It’s nice to have the blame and guilt lifted a little, I was able to take a breath. She acknowledges that “in the face of confusion, disapproval and outright opposition, it is a challenging, confusing and brave journey that parents embark on when gender creative children appear on the family scene.” You tell ‘em, Diane Ehrensaft!

She calls gender creative children “blessed with the ability to hold on to the concept — that we all had one time in our lives — that we were free to be anything we wanted – boy, girl, maybe both.” Nobody has ever told me that my child is “blessed” because he is gender creative…more often than not they tell me the complete opposite. Thank you Diane Ehrensaft!

Then Diane Ehrensaft made me sad.

“To be gender nonconforming is to risk being killed, but on a daily basis it more likely means being harassed, confused and misunderstood in the community or maltreated by mental health professionals…There is no doubt that these children are among the ranks of minority individuals in our society who must anticipate bigotry and antipathy from those who either do not understand, are ill-informed, govern their thinking with myth rather than reality or…project hatred onto those who are different from themselves. At the same time, gender creative children diverge from almost all other minority children in that they have an additional mark against them: they may face aspersion from their very own family, loved ones who are supposed to be their protectors.” Diane Ehrensaft owes me some tissues.

She goes on to offer practical steps for processes involved in raising a healthy gender creative child. Girlfriend lays some stuff out step-by-step. There are a lot of terms to learn and remember and some of it can be a little confusing and clinical, at least for this tired mumsy. Now I’d like Diane Ehrensaft to write a follow-up book featuring the stories of patients from toddlerhood to adulthood. Please don’t tell me I have to wait decades to read that book; I hear that saints can work miracles.

Buy Gender Born, Gender Made…NOW…I’m serious.