The Gender Creative Child
Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes
From a leading US authority on a subject more timely than ever—an up-to-date, all-in-one resource on gender-nonconforming children and adolescents
In her groundbreaking first book, Gender Born, Gender Made, Dr. Diane Ehrensaft coined the term gender creative to describe children whose unique gender expression or sense of identity is not defined by a checkbox on their birth certificate. Now, with The Gender Creative Child, she returns to guide parents and professionals through the rapidly changing cultural, medical, and legal landscape of gender and identity.
In this up-to-date, comprehensive resource, Dr. Ehrensaft explains the interconnected effects of biology, nurture, and culture to explore why gender can be fluid, rather than binary. As an advocate for the gender affirmative model and with the expertise she has gained over three decades of pioneering work with children and families, she encourages caregivers to listen to each child, learn their particular needs, and support their quest for a true gender self.
The Gender Creative Child unlocks the door to a gender-expansive world, revealing pathways for positive change in our schools, our communities, and the world.
“The Gender Creative Child is an invaluable resource for families and practitioners wanting to understand the complexity and beauty of gender development and the value of affirmative care. I’m struck that Dr. Ehrensaft’s most revolutionary idea is also her most straightforward—if we really learn how to listen to our children, they will tell us what they need.”
—Aron Janssen, MD, director and founder NYU Gender and Sexuality Service
“The Gender Creative Child should be required reading for all therapists, pediatricians, and K-12 educators and for parents whose children express their gender differently from societal expectations. Diane Ehrensaft deftly shows that many trans and gender-nonconforming children can be identified from a young age and how critical it is to provide support to them.”
—Genny Beemyn, PhD, trans educator and coauthor of The Lives of Transgender People
“The Gender Creative Child is a must-read for parents of transgender and gender-expansive children and the professionals who work with them. Dr. Ehrensaft, a leading authority on gender development, uses an inviting, engaging, and humble style to present the gender affirmative model and provide insight into achieving gender health for all people. Dr. Ehrensaft’s concepts of gender webs, gender smoothies, gender ghosts, and gender angels, and her methods of distinguishing ‘apples,’ ‘oranges,’ and ‘fruit salads,’ are illuminated by her use of multiple real-life stories of families with gender creative children. There is no other resource like The Gender Creative Child and I am thrilled to recommend it to my clients.”
—Colt Keo-Meier, PhD, licensed psychologist and cofounder of Gender Infinity in Houston, Texas
“This book offers an accessible, engaging, and informative guide for families and therapists supporting transgender and gender creative youth. Dr. Ehrensaft’s commitment to and empathy for the young people with whom she works as well as for their families is clear throughout the book.”
—Heather Killelea McEntarfer, PhD, author of Navigating Gender and Sexuality in the Classroom
“An amazing book! It is a must-read for anyone whose daily life involves children, from parents and pediatricians to mental health providers and family court judges. The Gender Creative Child is a comprehensive, thorough, and accessible resource written by the preeminent expert in the field. The book holds the reader’s hand along as it takes them through basic concepts and complex issues, answering common questions and concerns.”
—Asaf Orr, Esq., Transgender Youth Project Staff Attorney, National Center for Lesbian Rights
“Dr. Ehrensaft explains gender and children like no one can. She equips adults to understand and support gender-expansive children the way they deserve to be. This book is the newest must-have for every LGBTQ library and a must-read for every adult with a child in their life.”
—Lori Duron, author of Raising My Rainbow
“Dr. Ehrensaft has achieved the impossible: an easy to read, but hard to forget, handbook that speaks to parents, teachers, medical doctors, counselors, and policymakers alike. In an accessible and conversational manner, Ehrensaft tackles tough challenges such as how to help gender creative children who also struggle with autism; why some youth intentionally choose the middle of the gender spectrum instead of the binary; how to navigate the legal and financial barriers to cross-sex hormone treatments; and why we must analyze traditional gender-based research studies with a critical eye and the wisdom of experience. This book urges us to abandon the fantasy that gender is a simple either/or proposition, and embrace the reality that there are infinite manifestations of a person’s identity. If we allow children to blaze the trail, however, then their path to self-actualization becomes clearer. A must-have for any professional who works with youth.”
—Jessica Herthel, coauthor of I Am Jazz
“In The Gender Creative Child, Diane Ehrensaft illuminates the tremendous variation in gender identity and expression that we find in children. With a depth of understanding that comes from years of experience, she shows parents, professionals, and the culture at large how to foster authenticity and psychological health. Dr. Ehrensaft’s emphasis on the uniqueness of each child reminds us to be thoughtful, keep an open mind, and listen carefully. I highly recommend this book!”
—Irwin Krieger, author of Helping Your Transgender Teen
“Finally a book that appropriately reflects the great spectrum of gender diversity that young children and teens embody and envision. Dr. Ehrensaft has, once again, moved beyond the challenges of identity politics and academic controversies and meets parents, families, and young people where they live—exploring the edges of gender expression in rapidly changing times.”
—Arlene Istar Lev, LCSW-R, CASAC, family therapist, gender specialist, and founder of Choices Counseling and Consulting
“The Gender Creative Child is a critical resource for anyone who loves or works with gender-nonconforming children and youth. In addition to providing an insightful overview of the medical and social context in which our misperceptions of gender have been passed down and the efforts underway to correct them, the author of Gender Born, Gender Made once again brings us into the room with a wide array of gender-nonconforming children to hear their struggles and wisdom as they communicate their experience of gender. True to her word as listener and translator, the author articulates what she has learned and faithfully guides families, professionals, educators, and communities to create safe, accepting environments that foster the full development of all.”
—Candace Waldron, author of My Daughter He: Transitioning With Our Transgender Children, trans-parent coach, and speaker.
“Diane Ehrensaft’s new book is a timely treatise on the ways families can best support the journeys of their gender creative children. As a pioneer in the care of transgender and gender-nonconforming kids, Dr. Ehrensaft continues to teach us important new concepts in the ever-evolving gender landscape. Parents, teachers, therapists, and medical practitioners, sit up and take note! Although society may still be riddled with the outdated gender ghosts of times past, Dr. Ehrensaft is here to safely steer us toward a day when all children will feel safe and assured in their authentic, affirmed gender.”
—Rachel Pepper, LMFT, author of Transitions of the Heart
“This exciting book from the author of Gender Born, Gender Made is an essential guide for any parent whose child goes against the grain of society’s expectations about gender. Diane Ehrensaft has delved deeply into the hearts and minds of gender-nonconforming and transgender children and adolescents to bust a multitude of myths. In simple language, The Gender Creative Child explores and explains new ways of thinking about gender-nonconformity. It’s an invaluable handbook, providing sensitive wisdom, helpful messages, and constructive advice for confused or anxious parents challenged by their child’s gender creativity and complexity. It’s a must for all parents, teachers, and pediatricians and should be in every public library. Riding the crest of the sea change of gender she describes, Dr. Ehrensaft is indeed a ‘gender angel.’ I only wish I’d had this book when my son was a toddler in the early 90s.”
—Julie Tarney, author of My Son Wears Heels
“Diane Ehrensaft’s timely book offers parents, practitioners, and community members an invaluable roadmap for supporting children who are transgender or gender-nonconforming. Highly accessible, Dr. Ehrensaft offers the adults in the lives of transgender children a compelling analysis of the dangers of trying to change a child’s gender expression and/or identity. Dr. Ehrensaft draws on her vast clinical experience and an emerging body of research to argue that we should instead strive to cultivate a child’s gender health by ‘listening and acting.’ The Gender Creative Child should be required reading for anyone wanting to support the well-being of transgender and gender-nonconforming children.”
—Kimberley Ens Manning, founding board member Gender Creative Kids Canada, principal The Simone de Beauvoir Institute Concordia University
“Gender Born, Gender Made brings to our homes, schools and clinician’s offices a wealth of ideas and tools that will prove invaluable as we move towards a more empathic, just and inclusive society.”
—Edgardo J. Menvielle, MD, MSHS, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The George Washington University, Director Gender and Sexuality Development Program, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC and author of the foreword to Gender Born, Gender Made.
Published 2005-07, 305 pages
With the spread of nontraditional families and the rise of infertility, “assisted conception” (donor insemination, egg donation, surrogate mothering or any combination of the above) is a big new fact of life. After two decades of counseling “biosocial” families, Ehrensaft, a clinical and developmental psychologist (Parenting Together ; Spoiling Childhood), wrote this honest, down-to-earth manual to help parents work through the problems. Just because people are brave enough to create nontraditional families doesn’t mean they’ve anticipated the difficult questions those arrangements raise. Do shared genes give the biological parent more rights than the “social” parent? Is it wrong to have fantasies about sperm donors? How do you decide how much to involve the “birth other” in the “family matrix”? At what age do you tell your child his or her birth story? What do you tell them? Ehrensaft groups the issues thematically with plenty of firsthand anecdotes. An experienced therapist, she acknowledges up front many things we do that we shouldn’t: social moms feeling jealous of surrogates, parents hiding the truth from their children, etc. She understands –and then nudges parents in a better direction. This is a terrifically useful book for nontraditional families and everyone (teachers, ministers, therapists) who works with them. (Aug.)
“There is much to learn from the stories Dr. Ehrensaft shares of others who have walked this path before me.”
–Anne-Marie, “new technology” mother of two
“Reading [this book] is like talking with a good friend who really understands the big picture, with all of its complexities and poignancy. I am overjoyed that a book like this is finally available.”
–Jane Mattes, CSW, founder of Single Mothers by Choice
“This groundbreaking book… focuses our attention where it should be –on the gift of life, and the human beings involved in creating a family. Dr. Ehrensaft tackles your medical questions, your psychological questions, and your parenting questions, all in one readable authoritative volume.”
–Susan H. McDaniel, Ph.D.
Department of Family Medicine, University of Rochester
Edited by Toni Vaughn Heineman, D.M.H., & Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
Brookes Publishing Company
Published 2005, 272 pages
By Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
Published 1997, 263 pages
“Here is a fresh, no-nonsense approach… [Ehrensaft’s] ideas and sensitivity reflect years of practice as a clinical psychologist as well as a parent. Her insight encourages parents to give generously of themselves, but never give themselves over to their children.”
–Reviews from Parent Council
“Ehrensaft examines the stresses on families in light of the fast-track contemporary American culture in which there are no clear parenting directives… [Her approach] avoids reductive or formulaic declarations and encourages parents to consider this insightful, well-argued discussion in the context of their own parenting styles.”
“[Readers] will be rewarded with informed, workable tactics for overcoming personal, situational, and cultural obstacles that inhibit healthy, happy family life… [A] remarkably deft exploration of childhood today.”
By Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
University of Illinois Press
Published 1990, 288 pages
“Diane Ehrensaft has written a rare and brilliant book which will give all of us new insights into ourselves, our children, and the dynamics of marriage and parenting. A lucid, readable, and inspiring book.” –Lillian Rubin, author of Intimate Strangers.
“Shared parenting usually means greater involvement by the father in what traditionally is the mother’s domain. What the men and women who chose shared parenting are like, why they have made such a choice, and what effects this choice has on children and on the parents, both individually and as a couple is the subject…In the end, she shows that overall, everyone–children, husband/father, wife/mother, and ultimately society as a whole–benefits from shared parenting.” –John Moryl, Library Journal.