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Conversations about the Gender Spectrum: Parent Education Resources

On Tuesday, January 26, parents enjoyed an informative presentation and discussion regarding gender. As we prepare for Alex Gino's author visit regarding the book George, parents and faculty had an opportunity to explore the topic of gender and ask questions and find resources with our expert guests.

About the Speakers

Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD is an Adolescent Medicine physician specializing in the care of gender non-conforming children and transgender youth. Board certified in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Dr. Olson-Kennedy has been an Assistant Professor at Children's Hospital Los Angeles for the past nine years. Dr. Olson-Kennedy has been providing medical intervention for transgender youth and young adults including puberty suppression and cross sex hormones for the past six years, and is considered a national expert in this area. Dr. Olson-Kennedy is the Medical Director of The Center for Transyouth Health and Development at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, the largest transgender youth clinic in the United States.

Aydin Olson-Kennedy, MSW, is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Gender Center where he provides psychotherapy for transgender youth, adults and their families. For the last 15 years, he has spoken internationally on the importance of an informed-consent model of care, identifying and acknowledging domains of privilege, and broadening clinicians and families understanding of gender dysphoria and its impact on the psychosocial well-being of gender-nonconforming and transgender individuals.


During her presentation, Dr. Olson-Kennedy explained the differences between assigned gender, gender identity, and gender expression to the group.

Assigned Gender: The gender assigned to a person at birth, usually due to the appearance of their genitals.

Gender Identity: One's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.

Gender Expression: The way in which a person acts to communicate gender within a gender culture.

She also explained how to approach these topics with children, encouraging polite curiosity and, most importantly, empathy towards others' experiences.

Following the presentation, Aydin helped facilitate a discussion and answer session, and provided helpful resources for parents to learn more as they talk about these topics with their children. When asking and learning about transgender people, the key is to include empathy in your conversations and questions.

Suggested Digital Resources

Marlo Mack, a mother raising a transgender child, writes the Gender Mom blog (http://www.gendermom.com/) and hosts the "How To Be A Girl" podcast (http://www.howtobeagirlpodcast.com/).

"The Missing Piece" is a moving video about a transgender child and his family (https://vimeo.com/221858403):

Transgender and Nonconforming Gender Resources in the CEE Library

For parents:

Ehrensaft, Diane. The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children who Live Outside Gender Boxes. Diane Ehrensaft, a developmental and clinical psychologist, coined the term "gender creative" to describe children whose gender identity is undefined, and how the interconnected effects of biology, nurture, and culture explain why the definition of gender can be fluid, rather than binary.

Picture books:

Baldacchino, Christine. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress. Morris faces taunts and criticism when he wears an orange dress to school, but things begin to change for him after he uses his imagination to paint a fantastic picture that he shares with his classmates.

Davids, Stacy B. Annie's Plaid Shirt. Annie loves her plaid shirt and wears it everywhere. But one day her mom tells Annie that she must wear a dress to her uncle's wedding. Annie protests, but her mom insists and buys her a fancy new dress anyway. Annie is miserable. She feels weird in dresses. Why can't her mom understand? Then Annie has an idea. But will her mom agree?

Drageset, Stacy. Pink is a Girl Color.... and Other Silly Things People Say. Book designed to encourage young children to be their authentic selves regardless of where they fall on the gender spectrum, and to generate kindness and acceptance for those whose gender identity and expression challenges that of existing stereotypes.

Ewert, Marcus. 10,000 Dresses. Bailey longs to wear the beautiful dresses of her dreams but is ridiculed by her unsympathetic family which rejects her true perception of herself.

Hall, Michael. Red: A Crayon's Story. Red's factory-applied label clearly says that he is red, but despite the best efforts of his teacher, fellow crayons and art supplies, and family members, he cannot seem to do anything right until a new friend offers a fresh perspective.

Hoffman, Sarah. Jacob's New Dress. Jacob, who likes to wear dresses at home, convinces his parents to let him wear a dress to school, too.

Ismail, Yasmeen. I'm a Girl! When a rough and tumble little girl, who is sometimes mistaken for a boy, meets a boy who likes wearing princess dresses and playing with dolls, a wonderful friendship is born.

Kilodavis, Cheryl. My Princess Boy. A little boy who loves the color pink and sparkly things is loved by his family exactly the way he is.

Mayeno, Laurin. One of a Kind, Like Me = Unico Como Yo. Tomorrow is the school parade, and Danny knows exactly what he will be: a princess. Mommy supports him 100%, and they race to the thrift store to find his costume. It's almost closing time. Will Danny find the costume of his dreams in time?

Walton, Jess. Introducing Teddy: A Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship. Errol's best friend and teddy, Thomas, is sad because he wishes he were a girl, not a boy teddy, but what only matters to both of them is that they are friends.

Herthel, Jessica. I am Jazz. Text and illustrations tell the story of Jazz Jennings, who was born a boy, but felt like a girl.

Clarke, Cat. The Pants Project. Eleven-year-old Liv fights to change the middle school dress code requiring girls to wear a skirt and, along the way, finds the courage to tell his moms he is meant to be a boy.

Gino, Alex. George. Knowing herself to be a girl despite her outwardly male appearance, George is denied a female role in the class play before teaming up with a friend to reveal her true self.

Dr. Johanna Olson-Kennedy and Aydin Olson-Kennedy's Recommended Resources

Gender Spectrum https://www.genderspectrum.org/

Gender Spectrum's mission is to create a gender-inclusive world for all children and youth. To accomplish this, we help families, organizations, and institutions increase understandings of gender and consider the implications that evolving views have for each of us.

Gender Odyssey http://www.genderodyssey.org/los-angeles/

Gender Odyssey Los Angeles is an international conference focused on the needs and interests of transgender and gender diverse children of all ages, their families and supporters, and the professionals who serve them.

Kids in the House: Johanna Olson https://www.kidsinthehouse.com/expert/parenting-advice-from-johanna-olson-md

Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD is a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Medical Director of the hospital's Center for Transyouth Health and Development.

Transforming Families (Family Support) http://transformingfamily.org/

Transforming Families is a Los Angeles-based family support group creating a positive environment for children, adolescents and their families to explore issues of gender identity.

If you have more questions or need further resources, contact Lucy or Eileen for details and assistance.