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How to Support Someone Who Is Going Through Gender Questioning?

PFLAG National uses the letter “Q” to denote both “Queer” and “Questioning. Although the two terms have a similar meaning in some respects, you still need to understand their full meanings clearly. The two terms are defined as follows:


Queer:

1) A term used to describe a sexual orientation that is not straight, without indicating the genders of the queer person or the people they are attracted to. Some people identify as queer because it doesn’t reference gender, and some people prefer queer because it can expansively include attraction to people of a range of genders (used similarly to “pansexual” and “bisexual”.)

2) An umbrella term used by some to describe lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

3) Historically and currently used by some as a slur targeting those perceived to transgress “norms” of sexual orientation and/or gender expression, but for others, a word that has been reclaimed as a positive and affirmative part of their identity.

Questioning:

A term used to describe those who are in a process of discovery and exploration about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or a combination thereof.

Gender identity is crucial in the development of young individuals as it is a big part of their personal social identity. Studies have shown that 57% of people first had questioning thoughts about their sexuality or gender between the ages of 11 and 15. During this stage, they begin to construct their identities externally and explore their gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender roles. 

Although some youths have little to no issue with self-identifying, many youths still encounter a great deal of confusion and uncertainty at this stage. So how can we support someone who is suffering the gender questioning?

How to find out the gender identity?

1.Educate yourself

Plenty of terms are associated with gender identity (as well as sexual orientation, which will not be covered here but is often lumped together with gender identity). Instead of expecting someone else to help you figure out your gender identity, try to find out for yourself. There are some websites that can help:


*Gender Spectrum: Creates gender-sensitive and -inclusive environments for children and teens through education, resources, and programs; offers a support group in Emeryville monthly.


*The Gender Unicorn: Helpful graphic showing the spectrum of gender and how it intersects with sex and relationships; provides definitions of a variety of terms.


*National Center for Transgender Equality: Provides transgender advocacy in Washington, D.C.; website provides education and advocacy around a variety of topics.


*PFLAG: The first and largest organization dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for LGBTQ+ people and their families.

2. Talk with others

There is an old saying,” wisdom of the masses exceeds that of any individual.” so if you cannot figure out which gender group you belong to or which gender you want to be in your lifespan, just go to seek someone’s help. You can talk to your chummy friends and teachers about your pains. If their opinions cannot work, then seek the professionals for help. The PLFAG is a charitable and professional organization.

3. Be open and nice with sexual minorities

Embrace the LGBTIQQ +community with a positive and open mind, try to get to know them, and join in LGBTIQQ +activities. Maybe in the process, you can find your true self. You can focus on Pride Month in June annually.

PFLAG

How can we do to support them

1. Show respect

Show your respect for a person’s affirmed gender identity, name, and pronouns. You may fear making a mistake or offending someone when you don’t know what name or pronouns to use. When in doubt, ask them! For example, “What gender pronouns do you use?” “What name should I use?”

2. Be an ally and advocate

Whether you’re a family member, friend, or university staff, you can help improve the life of transgender or gender nonconforming individuals by being open about your support of gender identity diversity and making yourself aware of the issues and services that serve the transgender community. Speak up when you hear someone saying something offensive, advocate for policies that improve the campus climate for gender nonconforming students and listen to the voices of those students.

3. Get support if needed

Learning about gender identity diversity may be new to you, and it may take time to incorporate new information into your way of understanding the world. To build your knowledge and awareness to best support a loved one who is transgender or gender nonconforming, seek out assistance by talking to a counselor or religious leader who is affirming of and has knowledge about gender identity diversity, finding a support group for those with a transgender person loved one or finding an online community for support.

The takeaway

It is complicated and very personal to define one’s gender identity. During this stage, you might feel anxious, upset, or have any negative feelings. There’s no need to make it fashionable to be an LGBTQ person or to force yourself into membership in the LGBT community. Whatever the outcome, I believe the journey of questioning gender is one filled with valuable lessons!

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