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CoastLine: Gender expansiveness in kids, how it's different from transgender, and why that matters

child in dress
Pixabay / Creative Commons

Research confirms that it’s not only trans kids, but also gender-expansive kids, at increased risk of suicidal behavior and other risk factors for suicide. So why has this part of the rainbow become an argument to either prove transgender doesn't exist or that gender-expansive must be trans? It's an closer look of the meaning of gender-expansive with UNCW Professor Julie-Ann Scott Pollock.

State legislatures and public school systems around the country are battling over how to think about, talk about, teach, and nurture children who are transgender.

But as we grapple with our evolving understanding of gender, what does non-traditional gender expression mean? If a boy prefers wearing dresses but he’s comfortable in his male body, is he transgender?

New research confirms that it’s not only trans kids – but also gender-expansive kids – at increased risk of suicidal behavior and other risk factors for suicide. According to Advocates For Youth, a nonprofit that offers programs, resources, and lobbies for supportive policies for LGBTQ+ kids, data shows gender expansive students are more likely than their peers to face bullying or substance use – risk factors for suicide. They’re also more likely to think about and actually attempt suicide.

On this episode, my guest says her gender-expansive child, who is not transgender, gets caught up in the political battle surrounding transgender kids. And understanding gender-expansiveness, she says, is critical to these kids' mental health.

Professor Julie-Ann Scott-Pollock is a gender studies scholar and narrative researcher in Communication Studies and Performance Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She has published on masculinity and femininity -- interviewing people across the spectrum of gender identity and sexuality, and she says part of public education must include the idea of gender-expansive children.

Resources:

https://www.wilmingtontranscommunity.com/

LGBTQ Center of the Cape Fear Coast

UNCW list of resources: https://uncw.edu/lgbtqia/local-lgbtq-resources.html

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.